There was no question that in his prime, Tracy McGrady could score with the NBA’s best. He could also do that in the clutch.
That was the case on this day 20 years ago. In a contest that was close throughout, McGrady’s last-second jumper was the difference as the Orlando Magic scored a big road win over the Detroit Pistons, 85-83.
After a big third quarter from the Magic, Orlando took a 65-63 lead into the final quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Feb. 1, 2002. During the final period, the Magic led by four on four separate occasions, but they just couldn’t seem to shake Detroit.
Orlando led 83-79 following a Mike Miller dunk with about three minutes to play, but as Rick Carlisle’s team did so often, it stiffened defensively. Detroit forced four turnovers over the final three minutes. After a Jerry Stackhouse dunk, former Orlando guard Chucky Atkins hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 45 seconds left.
Atkins appeared to have given the Pistons the final shot with a steal of Miller. Orlando’s Darrell Armstrong however, would steal the ball right back to set the stage for McGrady.
With time ticking away, McGrady found himself matched up with another former Orlando standout and one of the NBA’s best defensive players in Ben Wallace. As McGrady dribbled right, he got a screen from guard Troy Hudson, causing a switch.
With 1.8 seconds to play, McGrady rose and drilled the long jumper over the outstretched arm of Cliff Robinson. That would be the difference.
On the other end, Stackhouse would get off a three-point attempt that would have won the game, but it was blocked by Orlando’s Andrew DeClercq. With the win, the Magic were back over .500 at 24-23.
The Pistons closed the first half on an 11-2 run to take a 47-39 lead to the locker room. For the final 18 minutes however, neither team led by more than four. The last Detroit lead, 68-67, came on a Jon Barry three-pointer less than a minute into the final quarter.
For the night, 11 total players combined to finish in double figures scoring. Stackhouse and Miller led their respective teams with 18 points each. Corliss Williamson and Barry finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively, off the Detroit bench.
For Orlando, McGrady, Armstrong and DeClercq all finished with 12 points. Despite a quiet night offensively, McGrady led the Magic with nine rebounds and capped the night with the game-winning shot. It came on this day two decades ago.