<
>

McGrady's 28 points the highlight of a low-scoring night

HOUSTON (AP) -- Tracy McGrady summoned some more late-game moxie
to put away the San Antonio Spurs.

McGrady scored 28 points and came up with a handful of clutch
plays to lead the Houston Rockets to their season-high fourth
straight win, a 73-67 victory over the Spurs on Saturday night.

"This year, I've hit more big shots than I've ever done in my
career," McGrady said. "This was a really big win for us."

In the last meeting between the teams on Dec. 9, McGrady led the
Rockets to the biggest last-minute comeback victory in franchise
history by scoring 13 points in the final 35 seconds.

McGrady sparked the Rockets' strong finish in this one by
converting a three-point play, making a couple of free throws and
then finding Bob Sura all alone behind the arc for a 3-pointer that
gave Houston a 64-57 lead with 2:49 to go.

He nailed a clinching 3-pointer of his own with 34.6 seconds
left, putting Houston ahead 69-61. McGrady let his right hand
linger in the air a little longer than usual and smiled as the
crowd cheered.

"He had one big one at the end," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "We made him shoot a lot of tough shots. He is a great
player and maybe the toughest guy to cover in the league."

Yao Ming added 13 points and Dikembe Mutombo came off the bench
for 15 rebounds, helping the Rockets win for the seventh time in
nine games and move three games above .500 (20-17) for the first
time this season.

They also won consecutive games against San Antonio for the
first time since 1997, but it was only their fourth victory in the
past 25 games of this lopsided intrastate NBA rivalry.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 21 points and six assists, while
Tim Duncan had 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting and 12 rebounds.

The Spurs were held to a season-low point total, going only
24-of-68 (35 percent) from the floor, including 2-of-16 (13
percent) from 3-point range.

"Every time we play them, the offense isn't very good," Parker
said. "Our defense was good, but we never got our rhythm on the
offensive end."

San Antonio's offensive woes certainly weren't helped by the
injury of guard Manu Ginobili, who left in the third quarter after
bruising his right quadriceps and didn't return. He played only one
minute after halftime, then was taken out. Ginobili finished with
six points, three rebounds and three steals.

"I'm good. It's just a little sore," said Ginobili, whose
upper right leg was wrapped in ice. "I got kneed and I think that
is what happened."

Both teams got off to their trademark slow starts, combining for
only 58 first-half points -- Houston led 30-28 -- in an unsightly
offensive display that was the second-worst in the NBA this season.
Detroit and Denver combined for 55 points on Nov. 28, tying a post
shot-clock era league record set by the Rockets and Spurs on Dec.
11, 2003.

"We turned it back tonight to the 1940s," Rockets guard Jon
Barry said. "I've never been in a game (when the scoring) is this
low."

But McGrady eventually got it going, and he knocked down a
20-foot jumper while being fouled by Bruce Bowen to give the
Rockets a 58-57 lead. He hit the free throw, and Houston never
trailed again.

He then stole a pass by Duncan, and broke into the open court
before being fouled by Brent Barry. The officials called a clear
path foul, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich drew a technical foul for
protesting the call.

McGrady hit two free throws, stole another pass on the Spurs'
next possession and zipped a pass to a wide-open Sura for the 3
that gave Houston a game-clinching seven-point lead.

"I think tonight just shows what type of team we can be,"
McGrady said. "There are elite teams in this league and we should
be one of those teams if we do what we're supposed to do."

Game notes
San Antonio lost its third straight road game. ... Houston
set a franchise record for fewest points in a victory. ... The
Rockets were held to a season-low 10 points in the first quarter,
setting another mark after being held to a then-season low 12
against New Jersey on Thursday. ... Hall of Famer Rick Barry
visited the Toyota Center on Saturday to see a showdown between two
of his sons, Jon for Houston and Brent for San Antonio. Brent
finished with eight points, while Jon had six. "Over the years, I
definitely have the upper hand on him. Check the records," Brent
said.