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Magic

Bench makes name for itself

Orlando gets a charge from reserves, who beat Detroit's ''Alternatorz'' at their own game.

By RYAN MOLONEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 23, 2003


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Inspired by his team's emerging defensive style and the bench's knack for scoring quickly last season, Pistons guard Jon Barry came up with a nickname for he and his bench brethren. In keeping with Detroit's automotive heritage, Barry dubbed the alternates "The Alternatorz."

Okay. So what do the Magic reserves call themselves? The wands?

"Our bench name is 'the bench,' " reserve guard Darrell Armstrong said after Orlando's practice on Tuesday. "When we come out, the bench is energy and we don't need a name."

Reserve forward Shawn Kemp put it more succinctly.

"We don't make up names, 'The Warriors' or 'Alternatorz' or any of that (expletive)," Kemp said. "We just go out and play."

Six Orlando reserves each played nine or more minutes and outscored the Pistons bench -- the No. 1 scoring unit in the league during the season -- 28-16 in the Magic's 99-94 win over Detroit in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series on Sunday.

In frustrating Detroit with a surprising blend of physical defense and inspired bench play, the Magic beat the Pistons and their vaunted reserves at their own game.

Orlando coach Doc Rivers wants the team's substitutes to remember that going into Game 2 at 8 tonight. "If we don't (remember), we lose," Rivers said. "Detroit's going to play better, I can guarantee that right now."

The Pistons allowed an average of 87.7 points and were the only team in the league to allow fewer then 90 points per game. The Magic were 24th in the league, allowing 98.4 points per game.

Some Detroit players seemed surprised at Orlando's physical approach and vowed to respond with equal toughness in Game 2.

Armstrong, who played 30 minutes and made two key jump shots in the fourth, heard about the Magic's supposed softness all season. But the playoff incarnation of the team does not differ from the regular season version in his eyes.

"Soft or whatever, we're going to play basketball," Armstrong said. "We play with what we have, forget about everyone saying we're soft. You have to come and play, and that's what we did Sunday."

The reserves did not take long to assert themselves.

With starting forward Gordan Giricek and center Andrew DeClercq on the bench after two quick fouls in the first, five bench players -- Armstrong, Pat Garrity, Chris Whitney, Steven Hunter and Kemp -- rotated in, while only two Detroit subs played in the quarter.

Orlando led by five going into the second, and Rivers was confident enough to rest Tracy McGrady for seven minutes in the period.

"The guys on the bench did a great job of maintaining what we started and even coming in and making things happen even more," McGrady said. "They gave me the opportunity to rest about 10 minutes on the bench, which I didn't expect to do.

"I thought I was going to play no less than 45 minutes, but if I can continue to play 39 minutes I can be more effective on the basketball court."

While McGrady and the starters gather for the tip at center court, the reserves typically huddle on the bench to talk about taking some of the scoring burden off their superstar. Matching up against Detroit's famed bench made for a more energized discussion Sunday.

"Our bench had fun, it really did," Armstrong said. "Detroit's a good team, and when you have a bench that's good and calls themselves 'The Alternatorz,' you're ready for that, you get up for that."

Even if the Magic's reserves prefer not to have a nickname, it might not stop McGrady from coming up with something, especially if the group repeats its initial success tonight.

"Yeah, I'll probably have a nickname for you in Game 3," McGrady said with a smile.

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