Philadelphia (43-29) at Orlando (39-34)

Fair Currently: Orlando, FL
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Mon Mar 31, 2003
  • TV: SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

ORLANDO, FLORIDA (TICKER) —The Philadelphia 76ers can clinch their fifth straight playoff berth with a win Monday over the Orlando Magic. That will be no easy task.

The 76ers historically have had tremendous trouble with Magic guard Tracy McGrady, a 6-9 superstar who punishes them in the low post and with the high pick-and-roll.

McGrady is tough on every team. He leads the NBA in scoring at 32.3 points per game. But he is particularly rough on the 76ers, who don’t have a player who can match up with him defensively.

In the low post, McGrady is too big and skilled for Sixers guards Eric Snow, Aaron McKie and Greg Buckner, all good defensive players and all too small to deal with him on their own. McGrady demands a double-team, which frees up shooters Pat Garrity, Gordan Giricek and Darrell Armstrong.

In the high pick-and-roll, McGrady draws the second defender long enough to free a teammate for an open look or takes an overmatched defender to the basket. In three games against Philadelphia, he is averaging 34 points.

Until a 99-98 loss at Philadelphia on February 14, the Magic had won eight of their last nine meetings with the Sixers. In that game, McGrady made a tying 3-pointer before Allen Iverson made the game-winning free throw.

With Iverson leading the way, the Sixers have been one of the best teams in the NBA since the All-Star break. They improved to 18-5 since the All-Star break with a 110-89 victory at Atlanta on Saturday as Iverson collected 38 points, nine assists and eight steals.

Philadelphia is third in the Eastern Conference, one-half game ahead of Indiana. It is 1 1/2 games behind first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.

Orlando has not played since Thursday’s thrilling 110-107 home victory over Minnesota. In that game, McGrady had 30 points and 10 rebounds, sinking a tying 3-pointer and the go-ahead free throws in the final minute.

The Magic have won two in a row and six of seven. They are seventh in the East, one-half game behind Boston and 4 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee. Orlando is seeking its third straight playoff appearance.

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