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Magic disappears

A 40-point third quarter helps Milwaukee eliminate Orlando with a 112-104 win.

By DARRELL FRY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 2, 2001


photo
[AP photo]
Orlando's Tracy McGrady, right, leads Darrell Armstrong away from an altercation after Armstrong was fouled in the fourth quarter.
ORLANDO -- When the wave hit, there was really nothing the Magic could do. That's the way the Milwaukee Bucks and their fast-shooting offense come at you. With full force and little warning.

By the time things calmed down, the Magic was all wet, submerged and washed out of the playoffs by a 112-104 Bucks win Tuesday night in Game 4 of this Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

The clinching victory before a second straight sellout of 17,248 at TD Waterhouse Centre was sparked by Milwaukee's 40-point third quarter and gave the Bucks a 3-1 series victory. The Bucks, seeded second, advance to the conference semifinals against Charlotte, which swept Miami. It was Milwaukee's first playoff series win since 1988.

For the Magic, the loss ended a frustrating yet valiantly played season that will be remembered as much for the absence of the injured Grant Hill as the emergence of the ingenious Tracy McGrady.

Despite not having Hill and key reserve Dee Brown (suspended for one game), the Magic didn't go down without a fight. Orlando, in fact, led by as many as 16 points early in the second quarter.

But the Bucks, one of the most prolific scoring teams, whittled the lead to 61-57 by halftime with a 35-point second quarter, then opened the faucets all the way, pouring in 40 more in the third to send Orlando to a watery playoff demise.

Afterward, Bucks coach George Karl called it his team's best offensive game of the series, which is saying something considering Milwaukee topped 100 points in every game.

"We made some steals and got some baskets in transition and that got them on their heels I think a little bit," Karl said. "And then Ray (Allen) just had a great zone going."

If it had only been Allen in a zone, the Magic might have survived. But point guard Sam Cassell also was in a groove, and the two combined for 21 points in the third when Milwaukee shot nearly 60 percent from the floor (11-for-19).

The Bucks spread the floor and let their horses -- Allen (26 points), Cassell (25), Glenn Robinson (17) and Tim Thomas (15 points, 10 rebounds) -- run free, and the Magic couldn't keep up. "They basically stopped running plays. They basically said we're going to push (the ball) up and give it to our athletes and see if your athletes can match up," Magic coach Doc Rivers said. "We knew we couldn't, and it hurt us. That third quarter, it was all Sam Cassell and Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson going isolation, isolation, isolation. And at the end of the day, they had more guns than we had."

The Magic essentially had one gun -- McGrady. He put up 25 points, but it was woefully lacking considering he averaged 36.7 points in the three previous series games. McGrady set an NBA playoff record for a four-game series with 123 field-goal attempts. Rookie forward Mike Miller came through with 22 points, but he practically gave that much away trying to defend Robinson and Cassell, who gave Miller an NBA lesson he may never forget.

It was all Darrell Armstrong could do to add 16 points and eight assists, limited as he was by a painful groin injury and strained stomach muscles. "He probably shouldn't have even been playing in this series," Rivers said in praising Armstrong's heart and selflessness.

Trailing 97-87 going into the fourth quarter, the Magic never stopped fighting, cutting the Bucks' lead to 103-96 with 5:19 to play. But another successive wave from Robinson (three-pointer), Allen (5-foot jumper) and Cassell (15-foot jumper) engulfed Orlando in the final five minutes and the Magic never resurfaced, bounced from the post-season in the first round for the second time in as many appearances.

"I'm going to hang my head high. A lot of people didn't expect us to get this far," said McGrady, who should have a healthy Hill to help carry the team next season.

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