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Scrappy effort falls short

11/25/2003

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The hapless Orlando Magic put up a
surprisingly strong fight against the Indiana Pacers with star
player Tracy McGrady sick at home with a 103-degree fever.

Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal had 22 points and 19 rebounds, and the
NBA-leading Pacers handed Orlando its 13th straight loss, winning
89-78 on Monday night.

The Magic stayed close with a scrappy, hustling effort that
earned the respect of a crowd ready to roast them.

It wasn't until midway through the fourth quarter, when O'Neal's
three-point play put the Pacers up 77-63, that Orlando was down for
the count.

"The effort they put forth without McGrady was exceptional,"
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "They made the game the kind of
game they had to make it to have a chance to win."

Said O'Neal: "Those guys came out and played extremely well.
They had us on our heels early."

Ron Artest added 17 points and reserve Austin Croshere scored 13
of his season-high 15 in the second quarter to help Indiana extend
its winning streak to five games.

Orlando is four losses short of tying its franchise-worst losing
skid. That stretch was set in 1991-92, the season before the Magic
drafted Shaquille O'Neal.

"Certainly we were undermanned with T-Mac not playing, but I
don't think our guys conceded to the Pacers all night," said
Orlando coach Johnny Davis, who was making his home debut. He
replaced Doc Rivers, who was fired a week ago in the middle of an
0-5 road trip.

"If we continue to fight like that, and make some adjustments
to what we're doing, I think we can get this situation turned
around and begin to have some success."

Juwan Howard, returning to a starting role, scored 17 points to
lead four Orlando players in double figures. Donnell Harvey had 13
points and nine rebounds in his first start of the season, and
Gordan Giricek and Tyronn Lue also scored 13 points

Early on, the Magic looked nothing like the worst team in the
NBA. Everything the team lacked during Rivers' final days --
interior defense, aggressive rebounding, patience in halfcourt sets
-- were displayed in a half that drew no less than four standing
ovations from the crowd of 13,527.

Harvey earned most of the applause, with seven points and five
rebounds in the first half. His dunk early in the second quarter
capped off a 10-2 run for a six-point lead, Orlando's largest of
the game.

This was exactly what Carlisle feared when he warned his squad
about other teams losing when opposing stars were out.
Philadelphia, he noted, went into Toronto last week missing Allen
Iverson, Glenn Robinson and Derrick Coleman but still beat the
Raptors. Three nights later, New York beat the 76ers despite
injuries to Keith Van Horn and Allan Houston.

"This was a dangerous game and if we didn't respect this
opponent, we were going to lose," Carlisle said.

But the Magic soon proved their losing streak is no fluke,
repeatedly losing Croshere inside and out. His 3-pointer and
unmolested driving dunk kicked off a 12-4 run late in the second
quarter, and the Pacers led 48-43 at the break.

Croshere was 6-for-9, 3-of-5 on 3-pointers.

"Croshere went and hit some shots, and that gave us a burst of
energy," Carlisle said. "Then he continued that energy on the
defensive end. It's great when you have guys like that sitting on
your bench ready to play."

The fans' reaction to Rivers' firing was mixed. Davis received
only a lukewarm ovation during introductions, and the boosters'
signs showed a confusion over whom to blame for the team's
troubles. One sign thanked Magic general manager John Gabriel for
axing the embattled coach, but others supported Rivers while
calling for the removal of Gabriel and team chief operating officer
John Weisbrod.

Game notes
Indiana matched its franchise best with its seventh
straight road win, dating to last season. ... Including the
preseason and last season's playoffs, Orlando has lost 23 of 25
games -- including 12 straight at home. ... Indiana has won six of
its last eight games against Orlando. ... Orlando's opponents
entered the game shooting a league-best 79.5 percent from the foul
line. Indiana shot 66.7 percent (16-of-24). ... The Magic had
played eight straight games against Western Conference opponents
before facing the Pacers. ... New Orleans guard Darrell Armstrong
was in attendance. Armstrong played nine seasons with the Magic
before leaving as a free agent last offseason.