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Orlando extends its series

Tracy McGrady's 42 help Magic avoid the sweep in a 121-116 OT victory over the Bucks.

By DARRELL FRY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


ORLANDO -- The Magic is still alive. For how much longer is unknown. But Orlando bought itself at least two more days after finally beating Milwaukee 121-116 in overtime in Game 3 on Saturday night at TD Waterhouse Centre.

The win snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Bucks, but more importantly kept Orlando from being eliminated from the playoffs.

Orlando, down two games to one in the best-of-five first-round Eastern Conference series, must do it again Tuesday night at home or face another earlier-than-expected end to its season.

"When teams are on the brink, they come (into a game) one of two ways. They come in thinking about vacation or they come in thinking about winning the game and playing more basketball. I thought we did that," Magic coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought our team played with great passion tonight."

Orlando, which blew a 14-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation, lives thanks largely to Tracy McGrady's sensational play in the second half and overtime. McGrady finished with a game-best 42 points -- tying a franchise playoff record -- but scored 10 in third quarter, 17 in the fourth and four in overtime.

Milwaukee was led by Ray Allen's 27 points and Sam Cassell's 21. Tim Thomas added 18 points off the bench.

The Magic, which rallied from a 2-0 first-round series deficit against Miami in 1997 only to lose the deciding game on the road, got 18 points from point guard Darrell Armstrong and 16 from reserve forward Pat Garrity.

"We had to get that big gorilla off our backs," Rivers said in reference to Orlando's losing skid to Milwaukee. "Now that we've beaten them, now we know we can."

The Magic went almost exclusively to McGrady in overtime and he delivered just as he has all season. He hit a handful of crucial shots, including a driving left-handed layup with 1:38 left to give Orlando a 117-114 lead it would not give up. Cassell's missed layup in the final 30 seconds virtually sealed it.

"We're not ready to vacate," McGrady said.

What had been a fairly bland game got interesting midway through the third quarter and downright exciting in the final minutes.

After both teams jawed earlier in the series about being physical, tempers flared at the 7:12 mark when Orlando's Bo Outlaw and Cassell exchanged heated words after a loose ball. Milwaukee's Scott Williams quickly joined, followed by Armstrong, Glenn Robinson and McGrady.

There were no punches or ejections, but six technicals were given.

After that, the intensity went up about 10 notches. Every loose ball and every rebound seemingly became tantamount to playoff life and death.

Orlando, more so than Milwaukee, fed off it. The Magic, trailing 60-57 at the time, went on a 12-3 run, fueled by a pair of Pat Garrity three-point plays, to open a 69-63 lead, its biggest of the game.

McGrady took over from there, repeatedly beating his defender off the dribble to get to the basket and stretch Orlando's lead to 78-70 just before the final quarter.

Milwaukee closed the gap down the stretch and pushed the game into overtime tied at 110 when Orlando's Mike Miller missed a long three-pointer at the buzzer.

"We thought it was going to be easier than it was," Bucks coach George Karl said. "I thought we took this game with a degree of complacency. I thought we played hard, but we didn't play with the same energy as they did."

Rivers emphasized his team is not looking for any moral victories.

"This is not enough. This one win isn't enough," Rivers said. "We're a greedy basketball team."

McGRADY HONORED: McGrady was presented with the league's Most Improved Player award. McGrady's 26.8 points average in the regular season was an 11.4-point improvement from last season when he averaged 15.4 points with Toronto.

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