McGrady scored 37 points—two on a spectacular two-handed dunk—and helped the Magic snap a four-game losing streak with an 88-82 victory over the injury-riddled Toronto Raptors.
Coupled with Washington’s 87-83 loss to Boston, Orlando can clinch a playoff berth with one more victory or if the Wizards lose again.
McGrady was 11-of-18, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range, and was 11-of-16 at the free throw line. He surpassed 30 points for the 49th time this season, but the most memorable basket came off a third-quarter slam dunk.
Magic coach Doc Rivers likened it to something from “Nerf basketball.”
Following a steal by Steven Hunter, McGrady dribbled the length of the court, flipped the ball underhanded off the backboard, caught the carom in midair and performed a two-handed jam.
It was reminiscent of his dunk in the 2002 All-Star game and brought the crowd to its feet, filling the arena with chants of “MVP.”
“I told (Chris Whitney) I was going to throw it off the glass and I don’t think he believed me,” McGrady said. “And sure enough, the next possession, I got the opportunity to do it.
“It was a little dead in the TD Waterhouse (Centre) tonight, so I had to liven things up.”
The Raptors weren’t so impressed.
“There’s a time for a hard foul and there’s a time where you shouldn’t,” coach Lenny Wilkens said. “I could see the play coming and if you do that, then I’m going to make sure that you don’t get it back by putting my body right on you so you can’t get to the basket. I’m not saying you do anything to hurt anybody but you don’t want someone to embarrass you either.”
Regardless, Rivers was pleased to have moved a step closer to the playoffs so he can rest McGrady, who missed practice time this week with a strained rib muscle. Pat Garrity also has been slowed with a pulled groin, and Drew Gooden sat out with a sprained big toe and tendinitis in a knee.
“I just know that if we’re not healthy going into the playoffs, we’re not going to upset anyone,” said Rivers, whose team currently holds the No. 7 playoff seed. “It’s bad enough they’ve changed it to a seven-game series this year. We were hoping they’d wait until next year. But the fact that they have, we have to make sure we’re healthy going in.”
It appeared McGrady would rest during the fourth quarter, but Toronto rallied after heading into the period trailing by 21. McGrady entered the game at the 6:16 mark but scored only two points as the Magic were outscored 24-9 in the quarter. A 3-pointer by Toronto’s Chris Jefferies cut the lead to 88-82 with 1:01 remaining.
Jacque Vaughn turned the ball over on Orlando’s next possession, but the Raptors missed two 3-point attempts in the final 27 seconds.
Toronto shot 36.8 percent from the field and missed 12 of 33 free-throw attempts. The Raptors also committed 20 turnovers the Magic converted to 24 points.
Orlando got 14 points from Gordan Giricek, the only other Magic player to reach double figures. Giricek opened the game with an 18-foot jumper, and Orlando stayed in the lead the rest of the way.
Orlando started the third quarter hitting eight consecutive shots, including four 3-pointers, to take a 71-45 lead. Meanwhile, Toronto struggled, missing 10 of its first 11 shots.
McGrady finished with 16 points in the quarter, hitting all five shots. Orlando outscored Toronto 30-15 in the third. The Raptors were 5-for-19 fromthe field and committed eight turnovers.
Orlando and Toronto split this year’s four-game series. … Hunter made his first start of the season, scoring eight points and blocking four shots. It was Orlando’s 20th different starting lineup this season. … Gooden has missed six games since coming to the Magic in a trade Feb. 19. … Toronto dressed nine players with Vince Carter (ankle sprain), Antonio Davis (strained groin), Lindsey Hunter (sore back) and Voshon Lenard (sore knee) unavailable to play…. Giricek had a season-high four steals.