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Magic still likes its chances

By DARRELL FRY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2001


Magic players have been around coach Doc Rivers' persistent optimism so long they hardly give it much thought anymore. But now, more than ever, the Magic must buy into Rivers' look-on-the-bright-side attitude or risk being swept from the playoffs tonight.

Yeah, the situation looks bleak with Orlando down two games to none in the best-of-five series. And, yes, the odds are against Orlando beating Milwaukee in Game 3 tonight at TD Waterhouse Centre after losing the previous 11 to the Bucks. But if you believe Rivers, the Magic is fine.

"They do have more guns than us. They have more experience than us. But that doesn't mean they are going to win this series," Rivers said. Looking through the Magic's rose-colored glasses, the series has stuck to form. The Bucks won the opening two games on their home floor; the next two are in Orlando.

Said Magic star Tracy McGrady: "All they've done is what they are supposed to do, and that's win two at home. Now it's up to us to do the same."

If only it were that simple. Just one No. 7 seed has upset a No. 2 seed in the playoffs (New York beat Miami 3-2 in 1998) in the last 10 years. And not since 1995 has a team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a first-round series.

Still, Orlando faced this in 1997 when it lost the first two games of its first-round series against Miami on the road, but rallied to win the next two at home before losing the deciding game at Miami.

And there's this: Orlando is 3-1 in its last four home playoff games.

In order to hold off the streaking Bucks, the Magic must solve its rebounding problems. Milwaukee has dominated Orlando on the boards in five of the last six meetings, including the regular season.

Orlando also has to get more production from someone other than McGrady. He carried the team during the regular season, but it's probably too much to ask him to do the same against the Bucks, who have him outmanned with their Big Three -- Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell.

Plus, McGrady hasn't been getting many calls from refs, a source of anger with Magic officials who have complained to the league.

In Game 2 on Wednesday, McGrady took 31 shots but had only three free-throw attempts. Meanwhile, Cassell and Allen combined for 22 free-throw attempts.

"I don't know what it is with Tracy. He gets penalized for being a good guy, for never complaining to officials," Rivers said. "Ray Allen and Sam Cassell cry every single call. Maybe that's just working the refs, but that's not Tracy's nature."

Before Friday, McGrady led post-season scorers with a 34-point average. But Orlando's other weapons haven't had much of an impact. Point guard Darrell Armstrong, for instance, has been limited by strained stomach muscles and a strained groin. He scored 10 in Game 1 and nine in Game 2, well below his season average of 15.9.

"I know he's giving us all he's got, but he's hampered right now," McGrady said. "You can see it. On offense, he isn't aggressive anymore, and he can't play defense like he wants to. He's in a lot of pain."

So is the Magic. And it's going to get worse if Orlando gets swept.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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