T-Mac, Pistons Turn Back the Clock


Tracy McGrady has not mattered in a while. Microfracture knee surgery has zapped much of the ability that made him a superstar in Orlando. For one night, McGrady got to relive those days. For one night he drove to the lane with aggression and speed. For one night he pulled up with that old fall-away tilt and drained shots at will. For one night he was the Tracy McGrady who wore a Magic uniform all those years ago.

One problem. He was wearing a Pistons uniform.

Nothing symbolized the futility or confusion that came with a frustrating 103-95 loss at Amway Center on Monday than McGrady’s play. He honestly looked like the man who nearly won an MVP award with an eighth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.

T-Mac had 14 of his 20 points in the first quarter, abusing Jason Richardson offensively with pump fakes and drives to the hoop and added seven rebounds and five assists, looking extremely comfortable running and initiating Detroit’s offense. He set the tone early for what Detroit was going to be able to do tonight. Because after him it was Rodney Stuckey (16 points) and Ben Gordon (16 points) going to the basket.

Then it was Tayshaun Prince (20 points) finishing. He hit a fall-away jumper with the shot clock winding down to take a six-point lead back to eight and end Orlando’s last minute run to get back into this game.

Boy that script sounds familiar.

Almost the entire second half was played in double digits as the Magic did not have that second-half run they have come to depend upon. The great escape artists could not break free and come back tonight.

A lot of credit should go to Detroit. Prince, Austin Daye, Greg Monroe and McGrady all used their length to absolutely stifle Orlando’s offense. The team had problems getting around screen and rolls and even getting the ball into Dwight Howard. Howard never really got going in a game against a team that lacked a decent post presence. He still had 20 points and 16 rebounds, but just never really got his chances to dominate.

The Pistons did a fantastic job.

But the Magic also did not play well too. Defensive rotations were late and the Pistons got open looks at threes. They hit on 7 of 14, led by Daye’s 20 points and perfect 4-for-4 shooting from long range. The Magic? An icy 7 for 27.

Orlando showed the same lackadaisical play on the offensive end as it did on the defensive end. The frustrating part was that there were moments of brilliance. Quentin Richardson stepped in during the fourth quarter and provided a huge spark. Jameer Nelson helped reduce the lead with some energetic plays and even an energetic technical foul. The Magic had the lead down to four.

You have to wonder why this game went so wrong. The shooting numbers were almost identical — both teams shot 45 percent from the floor and an identical 22 for 33 from the foul line. Orlando even outrebounded Detroit 46-39. All things being equal, the Magic should have had this game close, at least.

One number was not equal and that was turnovers. Orlando had 16 of them. Detroit just six.

Stan Van Gundy summed it up best, 12 turnovers in the first half might as well mean you are not running your offense. The Magic offense was so interrupted by turnovers it never could get into a rhythm. And when you can’t get into a rhythm with an exacting, slow-paced team like Detroit, you are going to be in big trouble.

Orlando was in big trouble tonight. The atmosphere in the locker room, according to Andrew Melnick of Howard the Dunk and Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel, was atypically morose. Howard was one of the first to talk to the media and had some choice words for his perimeter defenders. Jameer Nelson said bad habits are also forming in the way the Magic play these games.

This game was a struggle and was discouraging after the two solid efforts against Toronto and Houston this weekend. You hope this is just a blip.