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Archive for Thursday, February 27, 2003

McGrady fending off Bryant’s scoring streak

February 27, 2003

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— For Tracy McGrady, a scoring title won't mean a thing if he doesn't win a ring.

The Orlando Magic's young star is locked in a duel with Kobe Bryant for the NBA's scoring title. McGrady is averaging 31.3 points through Wednesday; his rival on the Los Angeles Lakers is at 30.8, but gaining ground rapidly.

But the Magic, who have struggled all season, need McGrady's all-around dominance, not just his scoring, if they're to make the playoffs.

"My big concern right now is, 'Am I going to make my team get to the playoffs? Are we going to make something happen when we get to the playoffs?"' McGrady said. "I could care less about the scoring title and all those things. Once I get a ring on my finger, then I'll worry about the individual stuff."

McGrady has never advanced past the first round in three postseason appearances. His spectacular play this season could change that.

Most of the time, McGrady has to score for his team to win. And it's his individual talents that have boosted the Magic back in the playoff race and into a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a season-best four straight victories.

In those wins, he averaged 37 points, 7.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds.

Coincidentally, the streak started after good friend Mike Miller was traded to Memphis last week in a deal that brought former Kansas University standout Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek to Orlando.

Against Chicago two days after the trade, McGrady scored 52 points in three quarters -- the fourth-most points in NBA history for a player who finished a game with 33 minutes or less. He dedicated that performance to Miller.

McGrady followed that with a 46-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound effort at New Jersey -- the fourth-most points scored in a triple-double since 1980.

That performance also made him the sixth player to follow a 50-point game with a triple-double.

Right behind McGrady is Bryant, who had his streak of scoring at least 40 points snapped after nine games Tuesday.

Although McGrady won't admit that he is motivated to fend off Bryant's challenge, those close to him believe the scoring showdown is a good thing.

"I'm sure (the Lakers) are happy that T-Mac's rolling because that will keep Kobe going, and we're happy Kobe's going because that will keep T-Mac going," Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. "It's not only great for us, it's great for the league -- two guys who locked in a zone with talent."

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