By MIKE BRANOM, Associated Press Writer
February 26, 2003
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- It's early yet, but Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek are looking like the best additions to Orlando since Mickey Mouse.
In their third game since coming to the Magic in a trade, the two rookies scored 20 points apiece and combined for 18 rebounds as Orlando won its season-high fourth straight game by beating the Dallas Mavericks 98-93 Tuesday night.
``With the talent we have, you play hard and something good is going to come up.'' said Gooden, who had 10 rebounds for his second double-double in a Magic uniform.
Gooden is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, while Giricek has 16.7 and 5.7. That's helping Tracy McGrady, who led Orlando with 26 points and seven assists but was frustrated as he struggled to find his shot against the Mavericks' tight defense. He even drew an uncharacteristic technical foul in the first half after throwing an elbow.
``This was a night where they did a good job of double-teaming and making me give it up,'' said McGrady, averaging 7.5 assists over the last four games.
McGrady sank a driving layup to give Orlando a 90-89 lead, then followed with a block of Walt Williams' dunk attempt. Giricek followed with a jumper off a loose ball that put Orlando up by three points with 1:10 remaining, and the Magic drained all six of their foul shots down the stretch as the Magic closed with a 10-4 run.
``We're finishing games,'' said McGrady, who made 10 0f 20 shots. ``We're maturing out there each night as the nights go by.''
By winning their fourth straight home game, the Magic reached .500 for the first time since Jan. 31. They hold a one-game lead over Washington -- which also won -- for the eighth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
``There's a glow, and we have to keep that going,'' Orlando coach Doc Rivers said.
Dallas, which had won six straight games, got 26 points and seven rebounds from Dirk Nowitzki. Reserve Nick Van Exel added 18 points and Michael Finley 17.
``This is the wrong time to come in here and play the Magic, as they have a lot of confidence now and they're feeling good about themselves,'' Dallas coach Don Nelson said. ``A week ago, it probably would have been an easier time.''
McGrady averaged 40.7 points over the previous three games, but was hounded all night by the physical, frenetic defense of Finley, Raja Bell and Eduardo Najera.
Late in the second quarter, McGrady was slapped with a technical foul for elbowing Najera in the upper back. McGrady had worked his way inside, expending considerable effort against Dallas' defensive stopper, but was forced to pass to Giricek for a 3-pointer.
Soon after, Najera was ejected for accidentally bumping official David Jones when McGrady wasn't called for losing the ball out of bounds.
``I accidentally hit him, and it was a good call to eject me,'' Najera said. ``I just really snapped.''
Nelson said he was surprised at Najera's actions.
``We sure needed him down the stretch because my centers decided to not show up and play,'' he said.
Shawn Bradley, Raef LaFrentz and Evan Eschmeyer combined for four points and two rebounds in 33 minutes.
The Mavericks took a 10-point lead as the second quarter began, ripping off a 12-2 run in a little more than three minutes. Van Exel opened the burst with a bank shot and a fast-break floater, added a 3-pointer a minute later and his jump hook put Dallas up 40-30 with 8:39 left before halftime.
Orlando slowly battled back, with Giricek's 3-pointer tying the game at 57 with 3 minutes elapsed in the third quarter. Giricek had 10 points in the quarter.
``When I signed as a professional player, I signed to make the big shots,'' said Giricek, who sank four of seven 3-pointers. ``If T-Mac passes me the ball, I have to make the shot.''
From there, neither team led by more than four points until Darrell Armstrong hit a pair of free throws for a 94-89 lead with 18.3 seconds to go.
In the opening quarter, Gooden showed why he was so desired by the Magic. Displaying a full repertoire of post moves and heady play, he scored 10 points,hitting all three of his shots while drawing two fouls.
Orlando's Darrell Armstrong was hit with a technical foul early in the second quarter for arguing with referee Bill Kennedy. ... The last time the Magic had two players hit with technicals was Nov. 12, when McGrady and Shawn Kemp were whistled. ... Orlando guard Jeryl Sasser missed his third game since suffering neck and back spasms after a car accident Feb. 17. He was scoreless in three minutes at New Jersey on Sunday. ... During timeouts, a fan waved a banner reading ``Boycott France.'' Dallas reserve guard Antoine Rigaudeau, whodidn't play, is from France.
Updated on Wednesday, Feb 26, 2003 12:02 am, EST
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