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McGrady leads Magic with 34

1/19/2004

ORLANDO (AP) -- Even when they are playing their best, every game
seems to be a struggle for the Orlando Magic.

In their 106-99 win over Milwaukee on Monday, the Magic shot 50
percent, outrebounded the Bucks 43-38, committed only 10 turnovers
and led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Yet they still were not assured of the win until the buzzer
sounded.

"There are no easy victories for us this season, our record
proves that," Gordon Giricek said after the Magic improved to
11-31. "We were playing good defense the whole game, then they
started hitting shots you normally only take in desperation.
There's not much you can do when that happens, except hope you have
enough of a lead to hang on."

The Magic watched their lead shrink to 98-96 with 25.4 seconds
left. Juwan Howard was fouled on the inbounds play and made both
free throws to give Orlando a 100-96 lead. Tracy McGrady then stole
the inbounds pass and scored on a breakaway dunk to make it 102-96
with 19.8 seconds to go.

Rod Strickland hit another 3-pointer with 15 seconds left, but
two more free throws by McGrady and another steal and breakaway
layup by Giricek put the game away.

"My heart did drop a few times there at the end of the game,"
said McGrady, who finished with a game-high 34 points. "We kind of
got out of sync defensively and offensively, and I thought (blowing
a lead) might be happening again, but we did enough to win and
that's all that matters."

The Magic, especially their reserves, were the ones hitting the
shots early. Orlando shot 59.5 percent in the first half and jumped
out to a 57-42 lead. Giricek, Zaza Pachulia, Drew Gooden and
Strickland combined to go 13-for-13 from the field in the first two
periods.

"That second unit got whatever they wanted at the basket,"
Milwaukee coach Terry Porter said. "I don't know if they thought
it was a five-on-none drill or what the way they were scoring. We
just didn't have the physical presence we needed."

The Bucks got the deficit down to 67-64 in the third quarter,
but the Magic went on a 19-4 run over the next five minutes,
bridging the end of the third period and start of the fourth.
McGrady's third 3-pointer of the game put Orlando ahead 85-68 with
10:37 left in the game.

Milwaukee made one last push late when Erick Strickland and
Michael Redd made back-to-back 3-pointers that made it 98-96. But
McGrady, Giricek and Howard combined to stop the rally there.

Howard finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

"That's the game of basketball where you have a bunch of
runs," said Joe Smith, who led Milwaukee with 19 points. "They
jumped on us and we didn't have enough at the end to get over the
hump. It's tough to match them basket-for-basket when they shoot
like that."

Game notes
This was the first game of a home-and-home series between
Orlando and Milwaukee. The two teams play again in Milwaukee on
Wednesday night. ... Orlando has averaged 97.8 points since Dec. 1,
second best in the Eastern Conference over that period. Boston has
averaged 98.0 during the same stretch. ... Magic PG Tyronn Lue left
the game early in the third quarter with a strained quadriceps. He
is listed day-to-day. ... Milwaukee's Brian Skinner tied his season
high with 11 rebounds. ... The Magic's 15-point halftime lead was
their second biggest this season. They led Washington 45-25 at
halftime on Jan. 9. ... Andrew DeClercq had 11 rebounds in 11
minutes for Orlando, but didn't take a shot in the game.