SEATTLE (AP) -- Playing for the second consecutive night in the
middle of a six-game road trip, Tracy McGrady made it a point to
get his teammates involved early.
He took over late.
McGrady made six 3-pointers, handed out eight assists and pulled
down six rebounds for the Rockets.
Oh, and he played all but 18 seconds, after playing nearly 46
minutes in Wednesday's overtime win at Golden State.
"As a leader of the team, you have to set the tone right
away," McGrady said. "When I see it's close and it's winnable for
us, that's when my eyes light up. It's time to make plays and knock
down shots. I live for these games."
The Rockets are rolling since the return of McGrady, who missed
eight losses because of back spasms. Houston has lost just once
since his return and improved to 4-0 on its road trip.
It was also Houston's first win after going 0-4 in the second of
back-to-back games. Coach Jeff Van Gundy had a large graphic in the
Rockets' locker room highlighting their shortcomings in
back-to-back situations. Before Thursday, the Rockets were
averaging only 82 points and shooting 38 percent in those games.
Houston shot 52 percent and had 82 points with 8 minutes left.
"We feel great," Van Gundy said. "The mental thing always put
in their minds is that back-to-back is hard. It's not hard. They
felt great. It's great to play."
Yao Ming added 26 points and 10 rebounds, making 12 of 15 free
throws. He hit his first four shots and was 7-for-10 from the
Ray Allen scored 30 points but couldn't match McGrady in the
closing moments as Seattle lost its fourth straight at home. It's
the Sonics' longest home losing streak since the 2003-04 season.
"It seems like we're just one or two plays away from breaking
through," Allen said. "It's a great challenge trying to figure it
Seattle held an 88-84 lead with less than 6 minutes left. Yao
was called for an offensive foul on Danny Fortson and was given a
technical for slamming the ball. Allen's free throw put Seattle up
McGrady then took over as Houston scored nine of the next 11
points. He made two 3-pointers, a free throw and assisted on Yao's
layup that put Houston ahead 93-90.
Fortson, Yao and Allen all made free throws, leaving the Rockets
up 95-94 with 1:47 left. McGrady then drilled a 3-pointer over
Vladimir Radmanovic with 1 second on the shot clock and 1:13 left.
Allen scored and Yao made two free throws with 34.7 seconds to
go, putting Houston up 100-96. Allen missed a driving layup against
Yao, who got the rebound and was fouled. He made the shots, putting
the capper on the victory.
"We're playing better because McGrady and Yao, and our team
defense, and timely contributions by everybody," Van Gundy said.
"We're a better team now than we were three weeks ago."
Juwan Howard had 16 points and Stromile Swift added 12, 10 in
the first half, for the Rockets, who won despite being outrebounded
43-32 and giving up 22 second-chance points. A night earlier,
Houston outrebounded Golden State 61-32.
Houston started the fourth quarter by taking its largest lead to
that point -- 75-71 -- on a pair of free throws from Swift. Seattle
responded with a jumper by Radmanovic and a 3-pointer by Allen to
take a 76-75 advantage.
The lead was short-lived. McGrady scored three points before
Moochie Norris converted a three-point play and followed with
another layup -- both times beating Ronald Murray -- to put the
Rockets up 83-76 with 8:08 left.
Fortson was extremely appreciative of coach Bob Weiss'
support in Tuesday's loss to Golden State. Weiss was ejected in the
fourth quarter arguing calls against Fortson. Weiss also called the
NBA office about Fortson. "That was really cool," said Fortson,
who added he wasn't sure if former coach Nate McMillan would have
gone to that extent. ... Speaking of McMillan, Seattle plays its
first regular-season game against its former coach Friday night in