PHOENIX (AP) -- Jon Barry walked around the Houston Rockets'
locker room chanting, "Welcome to the machine, welcome to the
The Rockets certainly looked well-oiled Friday night.
Tracy McGrady scored 38 points and Yao Ming had 27 points and a
career-high 22 rebounds, helping the Rockets rally from a 14-point
third-quarter deficit to defeat the Phoenix Suns 127-107.
"McGrady was terrific, and that performance by Yao was
dominating," Barry added.
The victory was the third straight for the Rockets over an elite
Western Conference team following wins over Dallas and Seattle in
their two previous games.
The loss prevented the Suns (47-15) from becoming the winningest
team in the NBA and dropped them one-half game behind the idle San
Antonio Spurs (47-14) in the race for home court advantage in the
playoffs. Houston is 36-25 and surging.
Houston began the fourth quarter trailing by four points, but
with McGrady pumping in jumpers and the 7-foot-6 Yao taking command
inside, the Rockets outscored Phoenix 41-17 and finished with their
highest point total of the season. Houston shot .565 (13-for-23) in
the period, while the Suns, who had been at .492 percent
(30-for-61) through three quarters, were only 6-for-26 (.231) in
"This is a big win for us," McGrady said. "This is a
high-powered offense. And for us to hold them to 17 points in the
fourth quarter shows how good a defensive team we can be.
"I've got to tip my hat to the big fella (Yao) tonight. I just
hope he continues to play that way. There aren't too many players
who can stay with him when he plays that way."
"We believe we can go very far (in the playoffs)," James said.
"If we're going to win a championship, we've got to beat the best
to give us confidence going into the end of the season. And Phoenix
was the best in the West."
"I don't think we can play any better defensively than we did
at the end of the game," Yao said. "And to have a guy like Tracy
McGrady, who's such a great scorer ... when they go out to
double-team him, it opens up the middle."
Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 31 points and 10 rebounds, but
shot only 2-for-10 in the second half as he was continually
frustrated by Yao underneath. Walter McCarty added a season-high 20
points, including six 3-pointers, before fouling out with 3:23
left, and Jim Jackson and Joe Johnson each had 15 points for
Phoenix. Steve Nash finished with 10 points and 10 assists.
The Suns' second-leading scorer and No. 1 rebounder, Shawn
Marion, was sidelined with a contusion of the left knee.
"I wouldn't say frustrating," Stoudemire said, "but I got a
little upset out there. It wasn't quite going our way. It was rough
"Tracy McGrady hit all the big shots," Phoenix coach Mike
D'Antoni said. (He) did a good job of putting the dagger in when we
were struggling. He just didn't miss anything.'
The first half, which ended 60-60, was very fast-paced -- typical
for the Suns, but not so typical for the defense-oriented Rockets.
It also was a series of spurts and a furious dual between
Stoudemire and McGrady. By halftime, Stoudemire, the league's
fourth-leading scorer, had 24 points and McGrady, the No. 5 scorer,
^Notes@: In their next home game, April 18 against Golden State, the
Suns will place their former coach, the late Cotton Fitzsimmons,
into their Ring of Honor during halftime ceremonies. ... Houston
leads the NBA with seven players with at least 10 years of
experience in the NBA -- Vin Baker, Barry, Juwan Howard, Mutombo,
Charlie Ward, Clarence Weatherspoon and Wesley. ... The Suns are on
target to become the first team since the 1998-99 Sacramento Kings
to finish the season with the league's best offense and worst
defense. ... Houston has suited up a franchise record 22 players
this season. ... This was the Suns' fifth straight sellout and 17th
of the season; they had only six sellouts last season. ... Jackson
was facing the Rockets for the first time since Houston traded him
to New Orleans Dec. 27.