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McGrady Tires Out Clippers

Orlando star has 35 points and leads a big third-quarter surge in Magic's 101-80 victory.

November 15, 2002|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Too many tired legs?

Too many weary eyes?

Definitely too much Tracy McGrady.

Flying cross-country after playing the Miami Heat on Tuesday night at the end of a four-game trip and arriving around 4 in the morning, the Clippers dragged their bodies into Staples Center on Thursday night to find the Orlando Magic ready, willing and eager to avenge Sunday's loss to the Clippers in Orlando.

And avenge it the Magic did, with a 101-80 victory in front of a crowd of 17,654.

Although the subject of travel is no defense for a loss, because every team does it, the Clippers' biggest problem was finding a defense for McGrady.

They tried a zone on McGrady. They tried Corey Maggette. They tried Keyon Dooling. But nothing stopped the 6-8 guard with the soft hands, the quick moves and the high-flying legs. McGrady scored 35 points, making 14 of 26 from the field, including three of six from the three-point line.

And when it wasn't McGrady, it was Grant Hill (17 points) driving for layups or Pat Garrity (14) bombing away from the outside, where he made four of eight from beyond the three-point line.

Dooling has been watching McGrady since the two played AAU ball together. He has seen it all, but McGrady still leaves Dooling shaking his head.

"I admit I am biased," Dooling said. "But in my opinion, Tracy McGrady is the second-best player in the league behind Shaq [O'Neal]. He's just amazing. The game is effortless for him. Effortless."

Still, despite all of McGrady's heroics, the Magic (6-3) and Clippers (3-5) were locked in a reasonably close game at the half, 49-43.

Then the two teams came out for the third quarter.

Or at least the Magic came out.

The Clippers seemed to leave their game in the locker room.

Michael Olowokandi's free throw brought the Clippers to within three at 50-47. And then, like Magic, it was 69-49, Orlando going on a 19-2 run led by Garrity's three three-pointers and McGrady's eight points.

Included in those eight points was a spectacular McGrady dunk over both Olowokandi and Andre Miller.

"It wasn't that we didn't defend him," Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry said of McGrady. "It wasn't that we didn't have a hand in his face. But there is a reason that he makes $12 million a year and it's not just because he is a great guy."

The Clippers shot only 39.7% and turned the ball over 19 times leading to 26 Magic points. The Magic also dominated on the backboards, 52-33, and particularly on the offensive boards, where the difference was 16-5.

"I think we were trying," Gentry said. "We missed some easy shots and that takes a little away from you. I thought our effort was fine. We were just not very productive."

Maggette and Olowokandi shared the Clipper team high in scoring with 16 points apiece. Elton Brand had the usual double-double with a game-high 12 rebounds and 10 points.

It doesn't get any easier for the Clippers, who were back in the air Thursday night headed for Portland and their third game in four nights tonight.

But Gentry wasn't about to fall back on the schedule as an excuse for Thursday night. After all, The Magic also had to fly cross-country, coming from Orlando after a home game Tuesday night. But they at least had been home for two weeks.

"Every team does that [rough travel] at some stage," he said. "Teams have to do that. It doesn't matter what the environment or the atmosphere is. We just have to fight through the travel part. It's tough to regroup, but I will not use that as an excuse. They [the Magic] played some very good basketball."

Especially in that third-quarter run when the Clippers suddenly looked like those Clippers, the one who have been laughingstocks of the league for two decades.

But there were no boos from the crowd as was usually the case in the old, dismal days, no mass exit in the fourth quarter. This Clipper team has amassed talent and shown enough heart to have an off night without causing panic that the bad old days have returned.

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