Thu, May 01, 2003 - Page 20 News List

McGrady hopes for parting of the ways with Garnett

AP , AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN

Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett both skipped college, became NBA stars and are unstoppable on the court at times.

McGrady wants the similarities to end there.

He is determined to advance to the second round of the playoffs, something Garnett has been unable to do for the last six seasons in Minnesota.

McGrady has failed to get past the first round the past two seasons in Orlando after he and the Toronto Raptors were swept in the first round in 2000.

"Watching Kevin Garnett over the last couple of playoff series, what he's been through, being bounced out, I know how tough it is and how frustrating it is on his part," McGrady said. "You feel like you did everything you could on your part to advance and you failed. When you're the key guy for your team and you lose, you are to blame for everything. Everybody is looking at you, saying you need to do more, need to do this.

"So I don't want to be put in that situation."

The Magic have not advanced in the playoffs since Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway led them to the 1996 Eastern Conference finals. Garnett is trying to lead the Timberwolves over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in their first-round series.

"I'm just trying to get this franchise back on track like it was when I was a young fella watching Shaq and Penny here," the 23-year-old McGrady said.

McGrady is close to completing his quest because Orlando has a 3-1 series lead going into Game 5 on Wednesday in Detroit.

The Pistons are hoping to be just the seventh team to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-1, but they are closer to joining a different group.

Miami in 1999 and Seattle in 1993 are the only teams with top seeding to lose in the first round of the playoffs since the NBA went to a 16-team format in 1984.

"The one thing we haven't done is put pressure on them," Detroit guard Chauncey Billups said. "If we win Wednesday, they'll feel pressure to win at home on Friday."

Detroit is battered and bitter.

Coach Rick Carlisle has been criticized, players have called their offense predictable and some have blamed teammates -- without using names -- for the situation they're in.

"Before the series, I think some people felt we couldn't lose to Orlando. Now you get the feeling that some guys don't think we can win," Detroit's Ben Wallace said. "I think we can win. If we played the way we are capable, we aren't in this situation, but the way we've played lately, it isn't unbelievable to me.

"After what we did last year, losing this series would be a step in the wrong direction."

The Pistons won 50 games and the Central Division last year -- just as they did this season -- and advanced to the second round for the first time since 1991.

But after needing five games to get past the Vince Carter-less Raptors, the Pistons were eliminated by Boston in five games and may have their season end in five games against Orlando.

Michael Curry said what Detroit accomplished this season would not be wasted with another early exit in the playoffs.

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