CHICAGO (AP) -- Tracy McGrady was tired, tight, and couldn't
shake his defender. He was feeling much better by the time the
fourth quarter started.
"I knew I was going to take over," McGrady said.
"I couldn't seem to get going, physically," McGrady said.
But once he found the energy, he didn't stop.
McGrady hit a 22-foot jumper with 1:19 left to break a 77-77
tie. Houston's Shane Battier blocked a driving layup by Ben Gordon
with 25 seconds left. McGrady then hit one of two free throws to
make it a three-point game and Chuck Hayes and Luther Head added
two foul shots apiece.
It was the sixth straight 30-point performance for McGrady, who
hit just three of 10 shots in the first half and scored 25 in the
final two periods.
"I kind of got loose a little bit, made some adjustments, (got)
the ball on the move a lot and (created) some space on offense,"
Juwan Howard added 16 points and nine rebounds. Dikembe Mutombo
grabbed 16 rebounds, and the Rockets won for the sixth time in
eight games since Yao Ming broke a bone in his right leg. They hit
just 34 of 87 shots, including 8-of-32 on 3-pointers, but the Bulls
never got going, either.
Chicago went 30-for-82, including 3-of-15 from long range. The
Bulls suffered their third loss in four games -- each by seven
points or less.
"A lot of shots we had were open," said forward Michael
Sweetney, who had eight points and six rebounds. "We just had an
Gordon led Chicago with 24 points, and Luol Deng scored 20 after
finishing with 30 in Saturday's 106-89 win over Detroit.
"Well, they are No. 1 in the league in points allowed and
defensive shooting percentage," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said.
"Sometimes when you get that reputation, teams come in and for
whatever reason they miss. They are a good defensive team. Dikembe
Mutombo protects the basket and they have guys on the perimeter who
move around well."
And they're winning without Yao, who was in Chicago to have his
leg examined. The All-Star center attended his first road game
since Dec. 23, when he fractured a bone below his knee during a
loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and players bellowed "Hey Yao!"
before the game as he hobbled into the locker room on crutches, his
leg in a brace.
"We're a team that hangs in there," coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
"We've been without Yao or McGrady or both since (early December).
It hasn't been a situation of woe is me. We've tried to fight and
claw, play good and find a way to win on a given night."
Yao's presence wasn't enough to spark the Rockets early. They
shot 1-for-17 from 3-point range in the first half and trailed
40-30 at the break. Or, as McGrady put it, the Rockets "played
McGrady got going, and the Rockets wiped out the lead. They were
ahead 54-51 going into the fourth and used the long ball to make it
a seven-point game in the opening minutes.
Rafer Alston, who missed his first nine shots after failing to
connect on his last 11 in Sunday's overtime loss to Minnesota,
started the quarter with a 3. McGrady added two more as the lead
reached 65-58, but the Bulls weren't finished.
They scored eight straight and 11 of 13 to take a 69-67 lead
with 6:25 left. Gordon scored seven during that stretch. His jumper
off the dribble put the Bulls ahead by one, and he hit a 3-pointer
after a basket by McGrady to make it 69-67 Chicago.
"We play great defense," McGrady said. "In the third quarter,
we came out and made some adjustments on the defensive end. We put
a stop to their tough guys and made them take shots they didn't
want to take. On the other end, we came down and executed our
offense and got ourselves back in the ballgame."
Neither team spent much time at the foul line. The Bulls
were 14-of-16 there, and the Rockets hit 8-of-11. ... Van Gundy
delivered a strong message to those hoping for a change at point
guard: Forget about it. Alston is staying in the lineup. "This has
always puzzled me," Van Gundy said. "When you lose Yao and you go
5-2, I'm not looking after losing an overtime game to blow somebody
up. ... Rafer's our point guard. He's gonna be our point guard. If
anybody has a problem with that, wants to see a change, it ain't
gonna happen. Everybody can stop all the questions about who's
next. There ain't no next right now." ... Bulls backup F P.J.
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