for this game

Alston saves Rockets from late collapse

Nov 23, 2006 - 4:27 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Luther Head had to take a back seat to Rafer Alston for the role of hero.

Alston nailed the decisive 3-pointer with six seconds remaining as the Rockets held on for a 86-82 victory over the Washington Wizards, who remained winless on the road.

Yao Ming collected 25 points and 14 rebounds and Tracy McGrady added 13, 12 and eight assists for Houston, which has won its last five home meetings with Washington.

The Rockets entered the fourth quarter with a 66-56 lead before nearly collapsing.

Gilbert Arena, who scored 26 points, drained a 3-pointer with 5:43 left, drawing the Wizards within 72-71 before Head lured Arenas into a foul while shooting a 3-pointer.

Head sank all three fouls shots for a 75-71 edge with 2:33 remaining and added a 3-pointer from the corner, extending the margin to 78-71 with 1:59 to go.

"Luther's done this a couple of times," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He's shown he can really make (big shots)."

Washington eventually closed to 80-79 after a pair of foul shots by Arenas, setting the stage for Alston, who scored 12 points.

On the ensuing possession, the Rockets dribbled out most of the clock before McGrady found Alston, who drained his fourth shot from the arc.

"I've always got a feel for where my teammates are," McGrady said. "I know if I beat my guy, they'll think I'll take the shot. They got caught staring at me."

"I was just trying to stay in his field of vision and have my hands and feet ready to shoot," Alston said. "I knew I had to get it up and maybe Yao or Shane (Battier) could get the rebound."

Alston had an unusual shooting night. He finished 4-of-9 on 3-pointers but 0-of-7 inside the arc.

"I've been working on that (3-point shooting) all summer," Alston said. "I'll have to work on my inside shooting. It was a long night shooting the ball. (McGrady) should have had 15 assists if I knocked down some shots. The beauty of it is he had confidence in me (on that last shot)."

After Arenas banked in a 3-pointer, Head sank three free throws to seal it.

Caron Butler had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Wizards, who shot just 33 percent (28-of-84).

"I like the way my team played, but we just couldn't make our shots," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "Houston does a tremendous job on defense. I like the way we defended and got some good rebounds."

Houston maintained its 72-71 edge in the closing quarter for more than three minutes as both teams went cold.

"It was a grind-it-out game, one of those ugly games," Arenas said. "At the end of the day we had a a chance to win the game, but it didn't go down."

"I thought both teams were stuck in the mud," Van Gundy said. "We found a way to tough it out."

The Rockets owned a 40-28 lead at halftime, limiting the Wizards to 25 percent (11-of-44) shooting.

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