- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

ORLANDO, Fla. — With the Washington Wizards and the Orlando Magic having lost 90 games going into last night’s meeting, entertaining and exciting didn’t figure to be adjectives used to reference the game.

That was if you didn’t factor in Tracy McGrady.

Against the injury-depleted Wizards, McGrady — who has had some spectacular games against Washington — played his best ever, scoring a personal- and team-record 62 points in a 108-99 victory.

“My teammates came to me and told me to get 60,” said McGrady, who made one field goal in the fourth quarter. “Then they told me to get 70. I would have had it if I made my free throws.

“This was a big night for me personally because it has been a long season,” said McGrady, who was 17 for 26 from the line. “I hate losing and things just weren’t going our way. This will give me a boost.”

It was the best offensive performance by an NBA player since David Robinson scored 74 against the Clippers on April 24,1994.

McGrady’s effort — which also included 10 rebounds and five assists — had a variety of superlatives attached. It surpassed Michael Jordan’s 57 points on Dec. 3,1992, as the most against Washington, and it was the most points scored by an NBA player this season.

Also, it marked the first time a player has topped 60 since Los Angles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal scored 61 against the Los Angeles Clippers on March6, 2000.

“He had it going tonight,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We did a lot of good things out there, but it was just one of those nights when he had it going.”

For McGrady, torching the Wizards isn’t exactly a new experience — he has done it with regularity. His previous high against the Wizards was 50 on March8, 2002. Last season his best effort against the Wizards was 43.

In the four games the teams played this season — all won by Orlando (19-48) — McGrady averaged almost 41 points. Last night he had 34 by halftime.

So good was McGrady’s effort that Gilbert Arenas’ season-high 40 points for the Wizards went virtually unnoticed. Arenas was 15 for 33 from the floor. By halftime, Arenas had 22 points.

“Our best chance to win was to give Gilbert a lot of opportunities,” Jordan said.

Said Arenas: “I was just trying to keep up with [McGrady]. Once he got started, it was hard to stop him.”

Etan Thomas played well for the Wizards, too, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Christian Laettner had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

After McGrady, former Wizard Juwan Howard’s 14 points represented the Magic’s best scoring effort.

Washington (20-43, 1-16 Atlantic Division) showed up at TD Waterhouse Centre looking very much like a team ready to mail it in. Injuries sidelined starting forwards Jarvis Hayes (hamstring) and Kwame Brown (left foot), and early on the Wizards got a scare when Juan Dixon lost his footing and limped off the court on the first offensive possession.

Dixon, inserted in the starting lineup to replace ailing Jerry Stackhouse (knees and ankles), played two minutes in the first quarter. He returned in the second in time to see McGrady get started but did not play in the second half because of a sprained right ankle. His status for tomorrow’s game is in question.

By the end of the game, Washington only had eight players available.

McGrady had seven points in the first quarter, and he got three of them late as the Magic led 15-14 after one. But he put much of his offensive show on display in the second when he scored 21 points, many in breathtaking fashion.

Guarded at times by Christian Laettner and Jared Jeffries — who was on a gimpy knee himself — McGrady at one point scored 17 of 19 points to help the Magic to a 38-23 lead with approximately six minutes left in the half.

However, Arenas, who can find motivation in the littlest things, latched on and stayed right with McGrady. Using his quickness and his strength mostly against Orlando’s DeShawn Stevenson, Arenas scored 15 points in the second quarter for 22 in the half.

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