ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—Orlando’s Tracy McGrady believed there was no stopping him.
“I felt like if I pulled up from halfcourt, I was going to make it,” said McGrady, who scored 43 points—the ninth time this season he’s surpassed 40— as the Magic defeated the Denver Nuggets 111-98 on Sunday night.
McGrady dominated the first half, outscoring Denver by himself, 37-32. He cooled a little in the third before sitting out the fourth.
“It didn’t matter who they were going to put on me, they were at my mercy because I was in a rhythm all night,” McGrady said. “And once I get into that rhythm, I feel like nobody can stop me and that was the case tonight.”
McGrady headed to the bench for good late in the third quarter after connecting on 13-of-24 shots and 11-of-14 free throws. McGrady hurt Denver with a combination of penetrating drives and long-range jumpers, hitting 6-of-12 3-pointers.
“There was pretty much nothing you could do because we were playing good defense and there were times he was shooting two feet from the 3-point line and making them,” Denver’s Marcus Camby said. “There was pretty much nothing you could do but tip your hat to the guy for making shots like that.”
Magic coach Doc Rivers has watched several opponents this season fail to slow McGrady when he gets on such a roll.
“The worst thing in the world even for a great defender is when a great player gets it going,” Rivers said. “There’s not a lot of defenses that’s been made to stop that around the league historically and he was having one of those nights.”
Orlando won for the eighth time in the past 10 games and defeated Denver for the 12th consecutive time.
The Nuggets headed into the final period trailing, 88-63, and closed to the final margin against Orlando’s reserves while McGrady cheered from the sidelines.
McGrady’s first-half performance was record-setting.
He hit 12-of-17 shots, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range, for 37 of Orlando’s first-half 63 points. He set a Magic franchise record for most points in a half, breaking the record of 34 set by Shaquille O’Neal on April 20, 1994. McGrady’s 25 points in the second quarter also eclipsed the team mark for most points in a quarter. Brooks Thompson set the old mark when he scored 21 points in a quarter on March 19, 1996.
McGrady cooled considerably in the third, registering his first point at 6:34 when he hit one of two free throws to extend Orlando’s lead to 75-43. He shot 1-of-7 from the field and exited the game with 1:48 left in the quarter.
“We’ve seen this performance against us before,” Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “Our perimeter defense at times can be very soft with starting two very young players at that position. They have to understand the importance of defense against great players. We simply allowed Tracy to raise uncontested shots and be very comfortable where he received the basketball. He did whatever he wanted to do.”
Giricek’s 3-pointer snapped a 6-6 tie at 7:17 in the first quarter and put Orlando in the lead for good. The Magic led by as many as nine in the quarter and extended their halftime lead to 31 after shooting 11-for-21 in the second quarter.
Orlando outscored Denver, 37-14, in the period as the Nuggets committed seven turnovers and shot 5-of-15 from the field. McGrady hit four 3-pointers inthe second and was 7-for-8 from the line.
The Magic improved to 13-2 in against the Nuggets in Orlando. … Denver has not defeated Orlando since March 12, 1996. … Denver went scoreless in the second quarter for a stretch of 4:15. … Denver missed 8-of-10 3-point attempts. … The Nuggets set a team-low record for a Magic opponent thisseason by shooting 46.2 percent (12-26) at the free throw line.