<
>

Warriors' spirited rally falls short in final minutes

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- When Golden State erased Houston's
18-point second-half lead, it looked as if the Rockets' perfect
West Coast trip might be in jeopardy.

Then Tracy McGrady hit a tiebreaking jumper and the Rockets made
their free throws in the closing moments to wrap up an unbeaten
four-game swing, 97-94 over the weary Warriors on Monday night.

"It's a great road trip," McGrady said. "Many teams in this
league can't say they went out west and won four in a row. It's
hard to win in this league and it's hard to win on the road."

McGrady had 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Juwan
Howard added 18 points and seven rebounds before leaving with a
sprained right knee late in Houston's fifth straight victory. This
is the team's second-longest winning streak of the season behind an
eight-game run from Jan. 31-Feb. 15.

The Rockets led by 14 heading into the final quarter, then held
off a remarkable rally by Golden State in the waning moments.

Mickael Pietrus hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Warriors
to 79-74 with 7:37 left. Zarko Cabarkapa then made consecutive 3s
that got it to 87-83 with 4:49 left. Pietrus tied it with a
four-point play at 2:56, but McGrady hit a jumper on the other end.

Yao Ming made two free throws with 49 seconds left and David
Wesley hit two with 10 seconds remaining. Baron Davis made a layup
moments later, then Wesley converted two more free throws. Pietrus
missed a long 3 at the buzzer.

The Warriors got a huge boost off the bench from Cabarkapa, who
added career highs of 26 points, 10 rebounds and 32 minutes. His
five 3-pointers also were a career best.

"I need to show everybody that I can play the game," he said.
"I know I can shoot 3-pointers. I was a 3-point shooter, so
tonight I made a lot of them."

Yao had 14 points and 15 rebounds, and Wesley added 16 points.

Houston's previous four wins came against four of the best five
teams in the Western Conference: Dallas, Seattle, Phoenix and
Sacramento. But it was the last-place Warriors -- they were supposed
to be weary after an eight-game road trip -- who gave them one of
the toughest games.

"We're coming together and playing really well," Yao said.
"We've prepared thoroughly to play these tough teams. To come out
like this is great, but we still have a lot of tough games ahead of
us."

Howard went down hard after teammate Mike James fell backward
into his knee while guarding Cabarkapa. Howard was on the floor for
several minutes before being helped off the court by two teammates.

He grimaced in pain as he left. He left the arena on crutches
and was scheduled to be evaluated by team doctors Tuesday morning.

Houston swept a West Coast trip of three or more games for the
first time since winning five straight from March 4-11, 1997 --
against the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Los Angeles Lakers,
Dallas and San Antonio.

Troy Murphy had 24 points and nine rebounds for the
cold-shooting Warriors, who at times showed signs of fatigue after
returning from the grueling eight-game, 13-day trip that covered
6,951 miles.

Davis, acquired in a trade with New Orleans on Feb. 24, was in
the Warriors' starting lineup for the first time, playing in place
of the injured Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy and forward Calbert Cheaney
both were sidelined with sprained right ankles.

But Davis, Jason Richardson and Derek Fisher started the game
3-for-27 -- Davis 1-for-8, Richardson 2-for-10 and Fisher 0-for-9.
Richardson finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Fisher was scoreless, 0-for-10 from the field.

Davis had eight points on 2-for-12 shooting and seven assists.

"It's not an easy team to finish against," Davis said. "It
was frustrating. I looked like I was out of place. It was tough to
get my legs going and have enough energy to contribute the way I
wanted to."

Golden State trailed 42-29 late in the second quarter before
getting consecutive 3s to pull to 42-35 at halftime. But Houston
started the second half with a 7-0 run.

Game notes
The Warriors were 18-for-30 at the line. ... Houston's
Dikembe Mutombo had four blocks to move past Mark Eaton and into
third place on the NBA's career blocked shots list with 3,065.
Blocks became an official NBA stat in 1973-74. ... Wesley knows
what Davis is going to mean to the Warriors over the long haul.
They were longtime teammates with the Hornets before the Rockets
traded for Wesley on Dec. 29 and Golden State got Davis at the
trading deadline. "I watched that kid grow up," Wesley said. "He
came to Charlotte at 19 years old, full of talent and raring to go.
... There's a new lease on life for him." ... Warriors coach Mike
Montgomery was happy to be home. "What city are we in?" he asked,
joking. ... The first dead ball of the game didn't come until 4:35
left in the first quarter.