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If the Rockets are going to make some noise in the West, Tracy McGrady is the player who is going to lead the way, writes John Hollinger.

Updated: January 14, 2009, 4:46 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com
HOUSTON -- Tracy McGrady wasn't there. And yet he was everywhere. In Houston's first game after announcing its star guard would be out for at least two weeks to work on a sore knee (and, many suspect, a bruised psyche), the Rockets made two things abundantly apparent: First, that they have enough talent to compete with anyone even without McGrady ... and second, that they have no chance of beating the West's elite unless he's there. Playing without both McGrady and Ron Artest, Houston gave the Western Conference-leading Lakers everything they could handle for three quarters on Tuesday before ultimately falling short 105-100 before a Toyota Center-record crowd of 18,557.

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