Charlie Ward came through just in time.
Ward made two 3-pointers in overtime, Yao scored 33 points, and
the Rockets rallied late for a thrilling 104-101 win over the Kings
in their home opener on Saturday night.
"Yao and Tracy were playing a great game and doing their job
and I let them down on a few of the shots," Ward said. "I'm just
grateful I had the opportunity to redeem them."
Ward finished with 14 points, going 4-of-11 from behind the arc.
McGrady added 23 points in his Houston debut, giving Rockets
fans their first glimpse of the inside-outside combination that
many believe could replace former Los Angeles Lakers teammates
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant as the NBA's most dominant duo.
Yao scored 16 points after the third quarter, making nearly all
the key shots down the stretch to help the Rockets hold off
Sacramento. He converted only 2 of 6 free throws in the final
minute, however, keeping things interesting even as the Kings went
cold in overtime.
Yao "was just imposing his will on those guys," McGrady said.
Bibby led the Kings with 31 points and seven assists, but it
wasn't enough to keep them from going winless during their
season-opening, three-game swing through Texas. Peja Stojakovic
added 23 points, and Webber had 20.
Bibby and Brad Miller opened overtime with a couple of quick
scores, but Yao made a basket to cut the Kings' lead to 2. Ward
then nailed back-to-back 3s to give Houston its first lead since
midway through the second quarter, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
"Their two main guys got it going and we couldn't do anything
to win," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "We just have to do
something to get a win."
Yao did that and a little more on Saturday, even as he deferred
to McGrady early.
McGrady was the last starter introduced during pregame
introductions instead of Yao, who usually gets the honor. The
sellout crowd of 18,003 responded with its loudest cheers, and a
rocket was set off as McGrady skipped onto the court.
However, McGrady and Yao were just barely the best combo at the
Toyota Center on Saturday night.
Bibby repeatedly weaved his way into the lane, and Stojakovic
knocked down jumpers from all over as the Kings finally found their
The Kings led 39-37 at halftime despite shooting just 31 percent
from the field. Their lead twice swelled to 14 in the third
quarter, once on Bibby's 3-pointer from more than 30 feet out.
But Yao scored 12 points during the Rockets' fourth-quarter
rally, including two free throws to tie it at 93 with 1:23 left.
The Rockets had one final chance to win in regulation, but McGrady
slipped on his drive to the basket and Tyronn Lue missed a 3 from
the corner as time expired.
"We showed character in the way we came back," McGrady said.
"We played hard and executed great down the stretch. Even when we
were missing, we didn't hold our heads."
Certainly not the 11th-year veteran Ward, who was probably
Houston's least-celebrated offseason acquisition.
Ward was 1-of-8 from the field going into the fourth, but never
hesitated to take big shots in the final minutes. It was his final
3 that gave Houston a four-point lead with 89 seconds left.
"One thing I love about Charlie is he's got poise and he's got
courage," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Whatever Father
Time has taken away, they can't take those two things away."
The Rockets ended Sacramento's five-game winning streak in
their series. ... Yao and McGrady each finished with
double-doubles. Yao had 12 rebounds and McGrady had 13. ... Houston
improved to 29-9 in home openers.