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Yao, McGrady lead Rockets to season sweep of Knicks

Nov 21, 2006 - 3:10 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady helped Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy enjoy another triumphant return to Madison Square Garden.

Yao scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds and McGrady added 24 points to lead the Rockets to a 97-90 triumph over the New York Knicks.

It was the sixth victory in the last eight games for Houston, which swept the season series from New York for the second straight campaign.

"I think we learned a lot from the last couple of games," said Yao, who overcame a poor shooting night by going 14-of-16 from the line. "We had some situations and we had cushions, and they tried to chase back."

Van Gundy, who guided the Knicks to a 248-172 record from 1995-2002, improved to 6-2 against his former team.

"It's always special," said Van Gundy, who has won all four of his trips to Madison Square Garden with the Rockets. "Obviously there's not as many people around that I know now, so it's not as significant. It's an honor to walk out on the floor at Madison Square Garden, and that never gets old."

The score was tied, 70-70, with eight minutes remaining when McGrady drilled a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 10-1 run and push the score to 80-71 with 4:28 remaining.

"I think somewhat in the past few games, they are trying to drill Yao a little too much," said McGrady, who had 15 points in the second half. "I have been deferring in the second half and the fourth quarter. I just wanted to assert myself tonight."

McGrady still had words of praise for the 7-6 Yao, who is averaging 26.4 points over the first 11 games this season.

"To me, he's the best center in our league," McGrady said. "He's playing like it and he's showing it and he's helping us win ballgames. That's really all that matters. I think he's come a long way from his first year to this year. He's a guy that's getting progressively better."

New York native Rafer Alston scored 17 points and Luther Head added 10 off the bench for the Rockets, who limited the Knicks to just 37 percent (32-of-86) shooting.

"We had a hard time rebounding the ball, but our defense did what I think we're capable of doing," Van Gundy said. "I thought we got a little bit better shots and then we made some threes that were open too."

Reserve Jamal Crawford scored 25 points while Channing Frye added 22 and nine rebounds for New York, which has lost five of its last seven.

"We were trying to hang in and just trying to stay around and trying to steal it," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "But they were good. Yao and Tracy were a little too much for us tonight, and Rafer Alston made a couple of big shots."

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