Friday, March 28, 2003

NBA Games

McGrady upstages Garnett

By Mike Branom
The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves couldn't keep up with Tracy McGrady. McGrady scored 30 points to help the Orlando Magic beat the Timberwolves 110-107 on Thursday night. The NBA scoring leader also had 10 assists, seven in the second half.

"I was looking forward to the challenge of Kevin Garnett, but I still didn't want to force anything," said McGrady, who extended his streak of 30-point games to 12 despite being hounded by Garnett. "I was just playing within the flow of the game."

Garnett had 26 points and 14 rebounds for his 20th double-double in his last 21 games. But he scored only nine points after halftime, tired from expending energy on both ends of the floor.

"The mind is saying yes, but the body is saying something else," the Minnesota star said.

In the only other NBA games Thursday, San Antonio beat Houston 98-85, and Sacramento defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 93-83.

Orlando, which has won six of seven, has a half-game lead over idle Boston for the No. 6 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Magic also moved a season-best five games over .500 at 39-34.

McGrady's two free throws with 24.4 seconds remaining put Orlando up 106-104 - its first lead since 7-6 - and capped a run of nine straight points in a 2:10 span.

Garnett drew a foul on Minnesota's ensuing possession, but he missed one of two free throws with 17.2 seconds left. Darrell Armstrong then hit four foul shots in the final 15.6 seconds to seal the win. Armstrong scored eight of his 16 points in the final period, and also drew a charge from Garnett with 1:15 remaining.

"Great call! Absolutely the right call," Armstrong said. "Shawn (Kemp) set him up by making him put the ball on the floor, and he ran right over me. That was the key play in the game."

Orlando trailed by as many as nine in the fourth quarter, but finished the game with a 13-3 run.

"The team that made a defensive run was going to win the game," Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. "We did that down the stretch."

In the final 2:42, Minnesota missed five of six shots, to go with a turnover - Garnett's charge. Those miscues led to the Timberwolves' first loss in five games.

"We made some bonehead moves down the stretch and didn't execute," said Wally Szczerbiak, who had 22 points and eight rebounds. "You've got to execute in the final three minutes. Little plays here and there down the stretch are going to kill you."

McGrady struggled early against Garnett's defense, missing six of eight shots in the first quarter while scoring just four points.

He fared better as the game went on, partly because he was more aggressive driving to the basket, rather than settling for jumpers. But that also meant McGrady wasn't shooting 3s; he missed his first three before connecting with 1:29 left to tie it at 104.

Garnett was almost unstoppable from inside and out, scoring 17 points in the first half. The Magic had no answer for him in the paint, and he also drilled long jumpers with ease, making five of his last six tries in the half. He also went 5-for-5 from the line.

Spurs 98, Rockets 95

At San Antonio - Stephen Jackson scored 27 points, 11 of them during a key third-quarter run, and Tim Duncan added 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists to help San Antonio.

The Spurs (51-20) trail the league-leading Mavericks by three games with 11 to play.

"We want to accomplish the same things we wanted at the beginning of the season," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his team's goals down the stretch. "We want to be in a set offensively when it counts and make a stop when it counts."

The Rockets (37-35) slipped a half-game behind idle Phoenix for the eighth and final postseason spot.

"What can I say?" said Houston guard Steve Francis, who was limited to eight points and didn't play at all in the final period. "We ran into a buzzsaw."

Kings 93, Clippers 83

At Sacramento, Calif., Chris Webber had 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists to help the Kings win their fifth straight game.

The Kings lowered their magic number to win their second straight Pacific Division title to four. Any combination of Sacramento victories and Portland losses totaling four will do it.

Corey Maggette led Los Angeles with 14 points.

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