8:00 PM ET, January 20, 2005
Amway Arena, Orlando, FL
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Tracy McGrady ignored the boos and the angry crowd. He just played hard -- and won.
Playing in Orlando for the first time since a bitter parting last summer, McGrady scored 27 points to lead a balanced offense and the Houston Rockets beat the Magic 108-99 on Thursday night.
"I was so focused," said McGrady, winner of two scoring titles in four seasons with Orlando. "I knew the reception I was going to get, but while I was out on the basketball court I was just trying to find ways to get myself going and make my team better."
Unlike his time in Orlando, when McGrady was often the Magic's first, last and only scoring option, his Rockets teammates can help -- and he is willing to lean on them.
"I didn't want to come out and make it a Tracy McGrady show, jacking up shots and playing outside the offense," said McGrady, who shot 8-of-21, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, but made 10 of 12 free throws.
"I was calm and I was in the flow. Whatever Coach called, I ran."
Added Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy: "I thought he struck the right balance. He played the game to win, versus as an individual showcase."
Magic forward Grant Hill said this was one of the best floor games he had ever seen his former teammate play.
"I think he realizes that other guys getting touches, getting involved early helps closing games out," said Hill, sidelined for almost all of McGrady's stay in Orlando. "It might not be as sexy as scoring 50 ... but you can see the growth on his part."
Yao made his first seven shots, which had to please McGrady. In Orlando, he quickly grew tired of looking inside and seeing has-beens (Patrick Ewing, Shawn Kemp) and role players (Andrew DeClercq, Michael Doleac).
"Our guys battled him, but he's 9 inches taller, or whatever it is, and shot over the top of them," Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. "But they did compete against him. He scored, but it wasn't easy for him."
Steve Francis, the biggest name Orlando received in the McGrady trade, led the Magic with 28 points and nine assists. Kelvin Cato, who also came over from Houston, tied his season high with 14 points.
Hill had 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting, the day after an MRI exam on his sore right wrist showed only a bruise. On Tuesday, he scored a season-low eight points on 4-for-14 shooting.
"Part of me thought I shouldn't go," Hill said. "But it's Houston, Steve Francis, Mac, TNT."
The sellout crowd, focusing its frustration for last season's 61-loss debacle on McGrady, booed him from introductions on. Many waved signs roasting "Me-Mac" for his recent disclosure that he slacked off during his final season here.
"Actually, Toronto was worse," said McGrady, who angered that city by leaving as a free agent in 2000.
Although the booing was expected, it was still jarring because McGrady could do no wrong here for three seasons. Living the story of local boy-makes-good, he was serenaded with chants of "MVP!" by fans enthralled with his soaring drives to the hoop and long-distance shots, all delivered seemingly without effort.
But everything soured last season. The Magic won their opener, McGrady's buzzer-beating tip-in sending the game into overtime, then lost 19 straight, crushing the team's playoff hopes by Thanksgiving.
The losing grated on McGrady so much, he openly talked of quitting -- not the attitude the team wanted when it named him captain. As the long season unfolded, McGrady got his points but refused to take responsibility for the Magic's record.
In one of his last games in Orlando, McGrady scored a franchise-record 62 points, clinching his second straight scoring title. But two weeks later, the team placed him on the injured list with a knee problem McGrady admitted he could've played through, had the games meant anything.
After the season, McGrady told the team he wanted out -- and on June 29 the Magic were happy to oblige, trading him to Houston.
It didn't take long for McGrady to make his presence felt again in Orlando. He scored nine in the first quarter, his shot clock-beating 3-pointer putting Houston ahead 33-21.
The Magic trailed by 17 midway through the second quarter, but rallied to cut the deficit to four with 3:37 remaining.
That's when McGrady stopped the comeback. He hit two free throws, then sank a layup off an inbounds pass under the basket for a 100-93 lead.
"I really enjoyed myself, and it felt better when we got that 'W," McGrady said. "That was the main thing -- just to get that win, regardless of how I played."
On Wednesday, McGrady was sued by a man who had the tip of his nose bitten off by the player's Rottweiler last year. Fred Chamberlin, 57, was working at McGrady's home in southwest Orange County on Aug. 24 when the dog attacked him. ... Houston point guard Rod Strickland, signed Wednesday, went scoreless in three minutes.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||37-88 (.420)||34-70 (.486)|
|3PM-3PA||6-19 (.316)||4-12 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||28-33 (.848)||27-35 (.771)|
|Fast Break Points||7||16|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||25 (1/0)||25 (2/0)|