"That's my role," said McGrady, acquired from Orlando in a seven-player trade last June. "When I see the team struggling offensively, it's my job to take over the game and just try to make things happen -- knocking down shots, getting to the free-throw line and getting other guys involved."
The Rockets, who had lost four of five, opened a four-game road trip with their seventh straight win over the Clippers.
"We basically just rode his back down the stretch and in overtime," forward Maurice Taylor said of McGrady.
McGrady, the first player to score more than 24 points against the Clippers, was 14-of-15 from the foul line. It was the first time in 11 games this season that the Rockets made more free throws than their opponent (26-18).
"It was a big factor," Jim Jackson said. "It means that we're aggressive attacking the basket and getting them into the penalty situation a lot earlier. More importantly, we made them. Those fouls that weren't being called in previous years now are, so we might as well use that to our advantage."
Yao Ming had 10 points and eight assists before fouling out. Yao is averaging 25.4 points in five home games, compared with 12.5 in six road games.
Bobby Simmons scored 20 points and was one of five Clippers in double figures. Elton Brand added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
McGrady opened overtime with a 20-foot jumper and a 16-footer in a 35-second span, giving Houston an 86-82 lead. Clippers rookie
Shaun Livingston hit a driving bank shot and then found Chris Wilcox wide open at the top of the lane, but Wilcox was called for an offensive foul that wiped out his tying layup.
Jackson sealed the victory with a 14-foot baseline jumper with 25.3 seconds left.
Tyronn Lue's 3-pointer with 5:23 left in regulation ended Houston's 5:25 scoring drought and put the Rockets back in front 74-72. The lead changed hands four more times before Simmons
converted Yao's fifth foul into a pair of free throws that gave the Clippers a 79-78 lead with 1:40 left.
Wilcox hit a driving layup over Yao for an 81-78 edge with 1:07 left in the fourth, before Jackson cut the deficit to one with a running jumper.
McGrady's 21-footer over Simmons went in and out, but the Rockets got a break when Wilcox missed the first of two free throws after Yao fouled out with 10 seconds left.
McGrady missed another 21-footer but was fouled by Simmons with 1.1 seconds left and made both free throws.
"I think I did a good job against him, but unfortunately the last play cost me," Simmons said. "I didn't really think it was a foul because he initiated the contact."
McGrady scored 17 points in the first half and helped the Rockets to a 45-40 halftime lead. They led by as many as 12 late in the first quarter.
"We've been getting big leads, then relaxing and letting teams get back into the game. So there shouldn't have been a hump for us to get over," Taylor said. "We should have closed the game out when we had them down. This game should have been won in four
quarters, not in overtime."
Chris Kaman (sprained left ankle) and Kerry Kittles (sore right knee) could be ready to make their season debut Thursday against the New Jersey Nets, who traded Kittles to the Clippers in July. ... Los Angeles Dodgers manager Jim Tracy had a front-row seat behind the baseline.