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T-Mac torches Kings with 37 points; Rockets win fourth in a row

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- After two very subpar games, it wasn't
surprising that Tracy McGrady didn't experience a third Saturday
night.

One of the NBA's most dangerous scorers, McGrady had 37 points
and nine assists to help the Houston Rockets defeat the slumping
Sacramento Kings 115-111 in overtime.

Rafer Alston opened the overtime with a 3-pointer, and Houston
never trailed in handing the Kings their third overtime loss in the
last four games at Arco Arena.

A 3-pointer from McGrady and two free throws by Shane Battier
put the Rockets in control 109-103 and the Kings never regained the
lead.

McGrady entered the game struggling, missing all 11 3-point
attempts the last two games and scoring a combined 20 points. His
shooting slump ended in Sacramento. He made 12 of 31 shots,
including three 3-pointers, and hit 10 of 11 free throws.

Two of McGrady's 3-pointers came late in regulation and gave
Houston a five-point lead that it eventually squandered.

"He started bad in the first half, but in the second half he
always picks up his momentum," said teammate Dikembe Mutombo, who
had 11 points and 18 rebounds. "We know Tracy will always come out
and rescue us."

Ron Artest almost rescued the Kings.

He had 11 points in the fourth quarter, scored 34 overall and
banked in a long 3-pointer to tie the game 101-101 with 3.3 seconds
left. McGrady had a good look on a jumper at the buzzer but
misfired.

"He hit a good shot; he didn't call bank," McGrady joked
afterward. "He came up and told me it was a lucky shot."

The Rockets continue to win despite the absence of center Yao
Ming, who fractured his right leg Dec. 23 against the Los Angeles
Clippers. With Mutombo rebounding well and protecting the middle,
and a number of role players contributing, Houston is 9-2 without
Yao.

"Everyone needs to step up and do something until Yao gets back
and that's what we're doing, it's a different guy every night,"
Battier said.

Battier certainly stepped up in overtime, taking a charge when
Corliss Williamson barreled into him. Battier needed eight stitches
after the game to close up a wound on the top of his head.

Alston had seven of his 22 points in overtime and added eight
assists for Houston, which has won four straight and nine off 10.
Juwan Howard made his first five shots and scored 17 points, and
Luther Head scored 14.

A difficult season continues for the Kings, who fell to a very
uncharacteristic 10-11 at home in losing their fifth straight game.
They have lost four straight at home and may welcome the upcoming
stretch that has them playing eight of 10 games on the road,
starting Monday afternoon in New York.

"We're losing a lot of these close games, but it doesn't matter
if it's by one point or 30 points, we're still losing," John
Salmons said. "It's putting us deeper and deeper in the West
(standings)."

Artest scored 34 points and veteran Williamson seemingly turned
back the clock with season-highs of 30 points and 12 rebounds for
the Kings. Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored 15, Kevin Martin had 14, and
Mike Bibby missed 11 of 14 shots and finished with 12 points.

"We got beat as opposed to beating ourselves," Artest
explained. "Both teams played well so we were supposed to get
beat."

McGrady's poor shooting from the previous two games continued in
the opening half, when he missed 7-of-10 shots. But he began to
connect from the outside in the third quarter, scoring 14 points as
Houston erased a six-point halftime deficit to take a 77-75 lead.

Game notes
Kings center Brad Miller missed the game for personal
reasons. ... Ex-King Bonzi Wells was bothered by a sore lower back
and did not dress. He has played in only 11 games this season. ...
Pete Carril, former Princeton coach and a long-time Kings
assistant, attended the game. ... Seldom-used Maurice Taylor
started his first game this season for the Kings, but was not a
factor, going scoreless and committing four fouls in 8 minutes.

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