Magic 106, Bucks 99
ORLANDO (AP)—Even when they are playing their best, every game seems to be a struggle for the Orlando Magic.
In their 106-99 win over Milwaukee on Monday, the Magic shot 50 percent, outrebounded the Bucks 43-38, committed only 10 turnovers and led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Yet they still were not assured of the win until the buzzer sounded.
“There are no easy victories for us this season, our record proves that,” Gordon Giricek said after the Magic improved to 11-31. “We were playing good defense the whole game, then they started hitting shots you normally only take in desperation. There’s not much you can do when that happens, except hope you have enough of a lead to hang on.”
The Magic watched their lead shrink to 98-96 with 25.4 seconds left. Juwan Howard was fouled on the inbounds play and made both free throws to give Orlando a 100-96 lead. Tracy McGrady then stole the inbounds pass and scored on a breakaway dunk to make it 102-96 with 19.8 seconds to go.
Rod Strickland hit another 3-pointer with 15 seconds left, but two more free throws by McGrady and another steal and breakaway layup by Giricek put the game away.
“My heart did drop a few times there at the end of the game,” said McGrady, who finished with a game-high 34 points. “We kind of got out of sync defensively and offensively, and I thought (blowing a lead) might be happening again, but we did enough to win and that’s all that matters.”
The Magic, especially their reserves, were the ones hitting the shots early. Orlando shot 59.5 percent in the first half and jumped out to a 57-42 lead. Giricek, Zaza Pachulia, Drew Gooden and Strickland combined to go 13-for-13 from the field in the first two periods.
“That second unit got whatever they wanted at the basket,” Milwaukee coach Terry Porter said. “I don’t know if they thought it was a five-on-none drill or what the way they were scoring. We just didn’t have the physical presence we needed.”
The Bucks got the deficit down to 67-64 in the third quarter, but the Magic went on a 19-4 run over the next five minutes, bridging the end of the third period and start of the fourth. McGrady’s third 3-pointer of the game put Orlando ahead 85-68 with 10:37 left in the game.
Howard finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“That’s the game of basketball where you have a bunch of runs,” said Joe Smith, who led Milwaukee with 19 points. “They jumped on us and we didn’t have enough at the end to get over the hump. It’s tough to match thembasket-for-basket when they shoot like that.”
This was the first game of a home-and-home series between Orlando and Milwaukee. The two teams play again in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. … Orlando has averaged 97.8 points since Dec. 1, second best in the Eastern Conference over that period. Boston has averaged 98.0 during the same stretch. … Magic PG Tyronn Lue left the game early in the third quarter with a strained quadriceps. He is listed day-to-day. … Milwaukee’s Brian Skinner tied his season high with 11 rebounds. … The Magic’s 15-point halftime lead was their second biggest this season. They led Washington 45-25 at halftime on Jan. 9. … Andrew DeClercq had 11 rebounds in 11 minutes for Orlando, butdidn’t take a shot in the game.