During the 2000-01 season, the Philadelphia 76ers reigned supreme in the Eastern Conference. Led by MVP Allen Iverson, the 76ers finished with the best record in the East and reached the NBA Finals.
Philadelphia however, was unable to figure out the Orlando Magic that season. On this day 20 years ago, the Magic won a 96-95 thriller at the First Union Center, thanks to a late hoop from Magic star Tracy McGrady.
In a nationally-televised contest on March 28, 2001, the Magic seemed to be in control after three quarters. Orlando had staved off a Philadelphia rally in the first meeting between the teams at the First Union Center. It was forced to do so again.
The 76ers trailed 74-63 after three quarters and again by 11 with under four minutes to play, but Philadelphia had one last run in it. Iverson and fellow guard Eric Snow combined for 10 points during a 13-4 run.
After clawing to within two, Iverson knocked down a jumper with seven seconds remaining while drawing a foul. His free throw gave Philadelphia its only lead of the fourth quarter, 95-94.
With time for one possession, the Magic went to McGrady. To that point, the Orlando star had scored 42 points, but his final bucket would be the biggest.
Matched up with Jumaine Jones, McGrady caught the inbound pass beyond halfcourt and immediately went to his right. McGrady was able to get the step on Jones before his scoop shot sailed above the outstretched arm of Tyrone Hill, off glass and through with less than three seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, the 76ers would get one last possession, but Iverson slipped while catching the inbound pass. He was never able to get his feet and was forced to hoist a long three-pointer at the buzzer. It hit only glass as the Magic won their second game in Philadelphia in as many trips.
The Magic trailed by seven at halftime, but outscored Philadelphia 30-12 in the third quarter to take an 11-point lead into the final period. In front of their home crowd however, the 76ers scored 32 points in the final quarter, but that was one too few.
In addition to McGrady’s career-high tying 44 points, nine rebounds and six assists, Darrell Armstrong added 14 points, six assists and four steals in the win. Mike Miller added 13 points for Orlando.
Iverson led the 76ers with 37 points in the loss. Snow, Jones and Matt Geiger added 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively. Snow finished with a game-high 10 assists while Hill grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds in a losing effort.
15 days later, the Magic clinched the 3-1 season series edge over Philadelphia with a 101-77 win in Orlando. Iverson would go on to win the NBA MVP award while McGrady finished fourth. Head-to-head however, McGrady got the better of the Philadelphia star that season. That was thanks largely to McGrady’s heroics that took place on this day two decades ago.