- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

MAGIC 97, WIZARDS 86

ORLANDO, Fla. A whole lot of teams around the NBA are going to get this type of treatment from Tracy McGrady.

Last night in their season opener at the unfriendly confines of TD Waterhouse Centre, the Washington Wizards played well enough for three quarters to put themselves in position to steal a game from a team that some feel could emerge as the Eastern Conference's representative in the Finals next spring.

But McGrady, who signed with the Magic for $92 million this summer, slappedthe Wizards with a dose of reality in the form of a career-high 32 points, 12 rebounds and four assists to lead the Magic to a 97-86 victory over the Wizards in front of 13,349.

McGrady scored 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, including six straight in a 10-0 Orlando run at the start of the period that the Wizards down by three points after three quarters never rebounded from.

The Wizards outrebounded the Magic (44-37), and they shot better from the field 46 percent to 43 percent. But the Wizards' sloppy play, combined with Orlando's pressing defense, resulted in 27 turnovers.

"You can't give a good basketball team on the road 16 turnovers," coach Leonard Hamilton said of the Wizards' first-half miscuses. "You take into consideration that we did a decent job at the defensive end from a field goal standpoint. If you get some of those possessions back you put yourself in a pretty good possession. This is one of those games that I'm sure we'll grow up from."

If last night is any indication, that McGrady is just 21 years old and has plenty of growing to do is downright scary. With Grant Hill, expected to be Batman to McGrady's Robin this year, still recovering from offseason ankle surgery and hobbling his way to nine points and 10 assists, McGrady was clearly the dominant player on the court when the outcome was in doubt.

Held to just three points in the third quarter after burning the Wizards for 18 first-half points, McGrady erupted in the fourth quarter for 11 points. With the Wizards down just 71-68 after three quarters, McGrady scored six points in a 10-0 Orlando run that the Wizards never rebounded from.

"I felt real good out there," McGrady said. "I just felt that I could score at any given time."

The loss was the Wizards' eighth consecutive at Orlando, and the Wizards have not won here since the 1996-97 season.

Felipe Lopez led the Wizards with 16 points. Juwan Howard had 12 points and nine rebounds. The backcourt of Mitch Richmond and Rod Strickland combined to shoot 7-for-23 from the field on the way to a combined 20 points.

Strickland admitted that the Orlando press gave the Wizards major problems.

"They put a trap on us and we were kind of unorganized," Strickland, who turned the ball over three times, said. "We probably should have taken our time a little more. We should have made better plays. When they got the ball out of my hands we just went full speed too much."

Not only did the Wizards lose their first game under Hamilton, but they also lost a player. Forward Popeye Jones suffered a fractured left index finger and there was no news last night as to when he would be able to play again. The Wizards play at Charlotte tonight.

The Wizards vacillated from hot to cold early in the game. At one point they allowed the Magic to shoot the lights out against them. Then at others times, particularly late in the second quarter, the Wizards defended well enough to battle back from what very well could have been a blowout.

McGrady took very little time to make his presence known. McGrady packed 11 points into the first quarter while connecting on 4 of 6 shots from the floor. Orlando shot 62 percent from the floor in the first quarter.

Leading 39-34, the Magic went on a 10-0 run. It began with the acrobatic McGrady throwing down a vicious, two-handed dunk. Then rookie Mike Miller, whom the Magic drafted out of Florida, hit a three. Hill packed in three more free throws, Miller hit another jumper, and the Wizards found themselves standing before a hostile crowd and looking up from the wrong end of a 49-34 score with 4:33 left in the first half.

But rather than go into a shell, the Wizards responded to their first challenge of the young season by showing some heart. At the defensive end the Wizards held the Magic to just one basket, a hook shot by Bo Outlaw.

Meanwhile, the Wizards looked crisp. With an interesting combination of starters and reserves on the court, Washington outscored the Magic 15-6 the rest of the way to trail by just 54-49 at halftime.

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