Tracy McGrady's back was in pain but watching from the bench hurt the NBA's leading scorer even more.

Shaking off a lower back bruise that sidelined him for the better part of a week, McGrady scored 46 points to lead the Magic to a 104-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons yesterday in Orlando.

"It's frustrating sitting out. I hate sitting out," said McGrady, who came one point short of his season high and three shy of his career best. "I wasn't 100 percent, but I felt good enough to go out there and play."

McGrady was elbowed in the lower back by the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant on Dec. 15. Since then, he had played just 17 minutes in a win at Utah a week ago.

Even as late as Christmas Eve, his status against Detroit was questionable. But McGrady made 14 of 26 shots and 18 of 21 free throws, despite pain making him wince and once forcing him to lay face-down on the floor during a timeout.

"Maybe this rest is a blessing in disguise," Orlando Coach Doc Rivers said. "He got a chance to gather himself and maybe he can go and stay healthy through the all-star break. That would be perfect."

Mike Miller scored 15 points for Orlando, which won for the third time in four games. Grant Hill shot 3 for 17, but had 10 points and 15 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.

"I kind of knew [McGrady] was going to play and play good," said Hill, who tied his rebounding season high. "When the bright lights are on, national television, he definitely brings his 'A' game."

Detroit, which lost its second straight after a six-game winning streak, got 22 points from Richard Hamilton.

* NETS 117, CELTICS 81: Richard Jefferson scored 22 points to lead New Jersey in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals.

The Nets, the NBA's top home team, won their 11th straight in New Jersey and fourth in a row overall. They had lost four straight to the Celtics in the regular season.

New Jersey, which shot a season-high 55 percent, improved to 16-1 at home and increased its Atlantic Division lead over the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers to 11/2 games.

Lucious Harris scored 17 points, and Jason Kidd added 16 points and 11 assists. Kenyon Martin had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Nets.

Paul Pierce scored 27 points for the Celtics.