SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah tried just about everything to stop
Houston's Tracy McGrady.
From switching defenders to changing defenses, nothing came even
close to working in the Rockets' 99-85 win Monday night. McGrady
scored 44 points, hitting shot after shot through the first three
quarters and nearly buried the Jazz by himself.
Some of McGrady's shots were wide-open looks, but others he had
to shoot over a hand in his face and the result was almost always
"It just comes with being really confident. No matter what type
of defense you throw, how many guys you put on me, if my jumper is
falling, you know there's really nothing you can do," said
McGrady, who also had five steals. "It was great defense on their
part. But it was just better offense."
By the time McGrady started missing in the fourth quarter,
Houston was already comfortably ahead with a 12-point lead. McGrady
made 14 of his first 17 shots and finished 15-for-21.
Houston, which lost at San Antonio 83-70 the night before,
improved to 2-1 on a four-game road trip and won for just the
second time in the last 17 meetings at Utah.
"We're going for bigger things. Those guys are playing for
pride. They know they're not making the playoffs. They're a well
coached team. They do a great job of executing," McGrady said.
"We're looking at the bigger picture."
Mike James scored 14 of his 16 in the second half, Yao Ming
finished with 15 points and David Wesley scored 11 for Houston. The
Rockets had to survive a couple of scares from the Jazz in the
third quarter before running away with it.
"We take time and possessions off trying to take shortcuts,"
coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Then we got back to trying to do what
we needed to do to win."
McGrady remained in until the end of the game, but couldn't
reach his season-high of 48 points. He didn't need to.
Houston is 19-2 when McGrady scores 30 or more. He had that by
halftime after scoring the last 11 points of first half. Houston
led by 15 in the early quarter before having to hold off a couple
of surges by the Jazz.
Utah got back into the game with an 8-0 run early in the third,
capped by Okur's steal and short jumper that brought the Jazz
within 66-58. McGrady hit a 19-footer, then Utah scored the next
eight points again, including an odd sequence with 3:24 left.
Kirk Snyder, who scored 12 points, ended up with a loose ball
that three other players couldn't hang on to. Instead of kicking it
back out, Snyder dribbled around and spun his way through the
defense for a layup while being fouled.
Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy was livid Snyder was awarded the
basket. It didn't help when the Jazz rookie did a little taunting
in front of the bench. Van Gundy got a technical, which led to a
free throw by Okur.
Snyder hit his free throw to complete the three-point play that
cut Houston's margin to 68-66. Utah coach Jerry Sloan immediately
took Snyder out of the game and had a chat with him.
"He makes a terrific move then he goes and stands in front of
their bench," Sloan said. "That's a no-no in this league. We're
lucky that something crazy didn't happen because those are the
kinds of things that can turn into something serious."
It seemed to revive the Rockets. Dikembe Mutombo and James each
hit a free throw to start an 8-2 run that put Houston up 76-68 at
the end of the third quarter.
A well-known Jazz fan with season tickets behind the east
basket, where he heckles opponents with a rubber chicken and other
items as they shoot free throws, was ejected late in the third
quarter. He received a standing ovation and several high-fives on
his way up the stairs. ... Sloan turned 63 Monday. ... Houston's
road trip wraps up Wednesday in Portland.