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McGrady's driving layup lifts Rockets over Lakers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Tracy McGrady followed a bad play with a very
good one. It gave the Houston Rockets an improbable victory.

McGrady's driving left-handed layup with 0.3 seconds left lifted
the short-handed Rockets to a 76-74 win over the Los Angeles Lakers
on Sunday night.

The Rockets (10-13) won for the seventh time in nine games
despite the absence of All-Star center Yao Ming, who missed his
first game this season and the third of his career because of a
sore right big toe.

The right-handed McGrady drove around Devean George at the top
of the key, and avoided Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown before laying
the ball in just before time ran out.

Brown had stolen the ball from McGrady on the previous Houston
possession and drove for an uncontested dunk with 19 seconds left
to tie the game.

The Rockets went right to McGrady without calling a timeout, and
he ran the clock down before making his move.

"I knew it was in my hands," McGrady said. "All I had in my
mind was to attack the basket. For us to come out and get this win
is really big."

McGrady made no excuses concerning the play by Brown, saying the
Lakers' big man hadn't been aggressive in defending him in that
kind of situation the entire game.

"He surprised the hell out of me when I came off that
pick-and-roll," McGrady said. "It was a great play on his part."

The Lakers called time after McGrady's basket, but Smush
Parker's long jumper from the right corner as the buzzer sounded
was short.

George, who generally did a good job defending McGrady, took
responsibility for the game-winning shot.

"He got a step on me," George said. "I thought he was going
to run the clock down a little more. I kind of relaxed a little
bit. I think he kind of read my getting out of my stance and took
off. He had a clear path to the basket. I was trailing the play. My
fault.

"Next time, I won't get out of my stance."

Odom also took responsibility, saying: "I was down there with
Kwame Brown. We have to converge a little better and force him to
take a shot with a degree of difficulty, and we didn't. I will take
the blame for that one -- I was right there."

McGrady led Houston with 20 points, eight rebounds and four
assists. David Wesley added 18 points and rookie Luther Head scored
16 for the Rockets.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers (13-11) with 24 points and six
assists. Parker and Brown each added 11 points for Los Angeles,
which lost for just the second time in nine games.

Baskets by Dikembe Mutombo and Juwan Howard gave the Rockets a
69-58 lead early in the fourth quarter. Luke Walton made a
3-pointer to trigger a 9-0 run, cutting Houston's lead to two
points midway through the period.

That was as close as the Lakers would get until Brown's
game-tying dunk.

Then came McGrady's big play.

"They had a full clock to work with, and we stood there and
watched McGrady get a layup, which is inexcusable," Lakers coach
Phil Jackson said. "Our big guys failed us in that situation when
they didn't plug the lane or block the shot."

The Lakers led 52-40 before the Rockets outscored Los Angeles
25-5 to finish the third quarter for a 65-57 lead. Wesley had 13
points in the period after scoring only two in the first half.
McGrady added nine points and Head scored eight in the quarter.

The Lakers led 42-31 at halftime. The Rockets shot just 28.2
percent in the opening 24 minutes and 51.4 percent after that.

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said before the game that he didn't
know when Yao will return.

"It's not a one-game thing," Van Gundy said. "It will
probably be a multiple-game thing, whatever that is. We'll know
more after he sees the doctor.

"He doesn't miss much. So when he misses, he's hurt."

Yao who had played in 266 of a possible 268 regular-season
games, flew home before the game and will be checked out Monday. He
is averaging 19.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.36 blocked shots.

Game notes
The Rockets are also playing without injured guards Rafer
Alston, Jon Barry, Bob Sura and Derek Anderson. ... The Lakers are
going without F Slava Medvedenko and G Aaron McKie. ... The Lakers
beat the Rockets in 14 of the previous 19 games between the teams,
although they split their four games in each of the past two
seasons. ... The Rockets went 5-1 on their rugged six-game road
trip that finished in Los Angeles. They return to action Wednesday
night against Toronto. ... Mutombo, who replaced Yao, had two
points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in a season-high 32
minutes. He left the court with 4:51 left due to a dislocated and
lacerated right middle finger that required eight stitches.