DALLAS (AP) -- Tracy McGrady's left big toe was bothering him so
much that he took off his shoe during the second quarter and limped
to the sideline figuring he was done for the night.
The Dallas Mavericks weren't that lucky.
Halftime treatment and good news from an X-ray got McGrady back
onto the court, and he decided to push himself. The result was a
tremendous third quarter that carried the Houston Rockets to a
124-114 victory Wednesday night that ended the Mavs' six-game
"When I went to the bench, I was going to shut it down,"
McGrady said. "But at halftime, we put ice on it and more padding
in my shoe. It wore off a little bit, but I was still in pain."
Houston outscored Dallas 37-24 in the third, with McGrady
putting up 13 points and eight assists. He added 10 points in the
fourth, finishing with 30 points and 11 assists, matching his
season high. The Rockets scored their most points of the season for
the second straight game while beating the Mavericks for just the
second time in 11 tries.
"I was in one of those zones," said McGrady, who was 6-of-8 on
3-pointers, making all three he tried in the third. "When I saw
daylight, I was confident I was going to knock the shot down."
The Mavericks had won their last six games by at least 14
points, so this was their first tight game since before Christmas --
and they didn't have enough offense to keep up. That's right, a
team that was averaging 114.3 points in its last seven games
couldn't find a consistent scorer, at least not when it mattered
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 28 points, but had an
18-minute scoreless drought over the middle two periods. Michael
Finley, coming off a season-best 33 points, missed nine of his
first 10 shots. He finished with 14 thanks to three baskets long
after the outcome was settled.
The Rockets took advantage with an 11-2 run early in the third
quarter to go ahead for good, then closed the period up nine. They
shot 70 percent in the period, down from 72 in the first, and
finished at an impressive 61 percent.
Dallas' top defender, Josh Howard, was out with an upper
respiratory infection, and swingman Marquis Daniels has been out
with an ankle injury. Although Darrell Armstrong went from hardly
playing the last few weeks to starting, and there were other
changes in the rotation, coach Don Nelson expected a better
performance -- especially going into a 15-day stretch of nine games
against mostly quality foes, starting Friday night in San Antonio.
"I thought our defense let us down a little bit, but I'm not
sure that it mattered that much," Nelson said. "They were making
every shot. They had a real good rhythm and flow to their game and
Houston is suddenly starting to put up the numbers expected from
a team led by McGrady.
The Rockets scored 116 in a win over Denver on Sunday night and
are averaging 104.9 over the last 13 after putting up just 86.9 in
their first 22 games. They are 8-5 since the scoring outburst
began. It's no coincidence that along the way they've added David
Wesley and Jon Barry.
"We've got a lot of shooters on this team," center Yao Ming
said. "That really stretches the defense out. The last two games,
we've really had great chemistry."
McGrady was 12-of-19, but the attention he commanded freed Juwan
Howard to go 14-of-19 for a season-high 29 points. Wesley scored 21
and Yao 20, half from the foul line.
The Rockets broke things open coming out of an early timeout in
the third quarter. The spurt featured a 3-pointer by McGrady, a
steal and breakaway layup by Wesley, a dunk by Yao off a sweet
drive and dish by McGrady, and a thunderous slam by McGrady off a
lob pass from Wesley over three flat-footed Mavs.
Later in the quarter, the Mavs gambled by sending two 7-footers
at McGrady behind the 3-point line to force him to give up the
ball; he answered by assisting on the next five baskets. He closed
the quarter with a 3-pointer that sent Wesley away with a huge
smile and Barry skipping back across midcourt.
just four rebounds in the first and third quarters. ... Barry and
Wesley weren't with the Rockets last month, when the Mavs beat them
by 24. ... Dallas' Darrell Armstrong and Houston's Wesley started
against each other. They began this season as teammates in New
Orleans. ... Yao is still learning to throw down nasty dunks. He
tried an angry one in the second quarter and clanged it off the
back rim, making him slap the net even more angrily.
The Rockets will give interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff a chance to earn the job full time but also plan to interview other candidates.
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