Orlando (13-36) at Minnesota (33-13)

  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Tue Feb 3, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Tracy McGrady returns to Orlando’s lineup after a one-game absence as the Magic begin a three-game road trip against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

McGrady attended his aunt’s funeral on Saturday while the Magic suffered a disappointing 115-106 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Orlando picked up the offensive slack by shooting 50 percent from the field but allowed the Clippers to hit 53.3 percent of their shots, including 10 of 17 three-pointers, for their highest point total in over a month.

Gordon Giricek scored 20 points starting in place of McGrady, who is second in the NBA with 27 points per game and had been red hot with a 34.2 average in the previous nine games.

“We knew we had to do something to make up for that and I think everyone gave a good effort, we just didn’t stop their shooting,” Giricek said. “They were hitting everything.”

Juwan Howard added 19 points and Keith Bogans chipped in 17 as Orlando lost for the fourth time in five games and fell to 0-2 this season without McGrady, who sat out an 89-78 home loss to Indiana on Nov. 24 with a 103-degree fever.

“That would have been like us playing without Elton Brand, so yes, it made a big difference,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Some guys can come in and play well and pick up some of the slack, but you’re probably not going to get all of his points back.”

McGrady will have to bring his best against the Timberwolves, who utilized a stifling zone defense to hold the defending scoring champion to just four points on 2-of-10 shooting in a 100-71 win on Nov. 7.

Minnesota posted its biggest comeback of the season Sunday, rallying from 18 points down to win its 12th straight home game, 106-101 over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Kevin Garnett had 32 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, Sam Cassell scored 29 points and Latrell Sprewell added 21 as Minnesota improved to 6-1 over the last three weeks when trailing after three quarters.

“Been there, done that,” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. “You can’t rely on it too much. It takes too much out of you mentally to come back. You have to exert an incredible amount of energy.”

The win matched the second longest home winning streak in team history for the Timberwolves, who are five victories away from tying a franchise-record 17-game home win streak set from January 8 through March 2, 2003.

“We’re a big win for other teams now, and guys understand that,” Cassell said. “Teams beat us, they’re going to cheer coming off the court.”

The Timberwolves, 16-5 at home and 24-5 since Dec. 1, play six of their next eight games at Target Center.

STANDINGS (through Feb. 1): Magic - 7th place, 14 GB, Atlantic Division. Timberwolves - 1st place, Midwest Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Magic - F Bogans, F Howard, C Andrew DeClercq, G McGrady, G Tyronn Lue. Timberwolves - F Sprewell, F Garnett, C Ervin Johnson, G Trenton Hassell, G Cassell.

TEAM LEADERS: Magic - McGrady, 27 ppg and 5.6 apg; Howard, 7 rpg. Timberwolves - Garnett, 24.5 ppg and 14 rpg; Cassell, 7.5 apg.

SEASON SERIES: Timberwolves, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 7; Timberwolves, 100-71. At Orlando, Sprewell scored 22 points and Garnett had 21 points and 17 rebounds as the Timberwolves snapped a three-game road slide to the Magic.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Magic - 7-19 on the road; Timberwolves - 16-5 at home.

INJURIES: Magic - F Pat Garitty (knee); F Grant Hill (ankle); F Britton Johnson (knee); F Monty Williams (knee). Timberwolves - C Michael Olowokandi (knee); G Troy Hudson (ankle); F Wally Szczerbiak (foot).

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