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McGrady heats up in second half as Rockets drop Bulls

Jan 9, 2007 - 5:46 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- As usual, Tracy McGrady took care of the offense and Shane Battier took care of the defense.

McGrady scored 25 of his 31 points in the second half and made the decisive jumper while Battier made two defensive stops against Ben Gordon in the final minute as the Houston Rockets rallied for an 84-77 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Houston, which shot just 1-of-17 from the arc in the first half, connected on 7-of-15 in the final 24 minutes. Its defense held Chicago to 36.6 shooting (30-of-82), the 12th time this season the Rockets have held their opponents under 40 percent.

"In the first half we missed some shots we should have made and they played good defense," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Second half we just started to shoot a little bit better. Our problem is playing good against good teams like the Bulls, to win against them you have to make plays and get good shots."

McGrady got good shots in the second half, scoring 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the third quarter and Houston limited Chicago to just 11 points to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit and take a 54-51 lead entering the fourth. But that just served as a warmup act for the star, who hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the fourth to forge a 63-55 lead.

"First half I just couldn't get it going, physically I was tired and I was tight," McGrady said. "They did a great job of denying me the ball and putting pressure on me. Second half I got loose and made some adjustments, I created some space for my offense and my shot started falling for me."

The Bulls rebounded behind Gordon, who scored 16 of his 24 points in the final stanza. His pull-up jumper from the right wing tied the game at 77-77 with 1:53 remaining, however McGrady countered with his own pull-up over Luol Deng from just inside the 3-point line to give Houston the lead for good with 89 seconds left.

"He is one of the best players in the league," Chicago guard Chris Duhon said. "He did what all great players do; he took over the game and put the team on his back."

On Chicago's next possession, the defensive-minded Battier harassed Gordon into an airball from just inside the foul line with 60 seconds left. After Battier missed a 3-pointer, Gordon drove the right side of the lane, but Battier blocked the shot from behind with 23 seconds to play.

"It was a great team defensive play," Battier said of his block. "It was a high pick-and-roll with Gordon, and he had started to heat up so everyone in the United Center knew he was going to take that shot. Chuck Hayes did a great job of stringing him out, I was able to come from the weak side and got a good strip on the ball. I was fortunate to stay in bounds."

Battier's play was not lost on Chicago coach Scott Skiles.

"McGrady is a great player, but the guy that makes you nervous on the other end is Battier because at any time they can put him on anybody and he will pretty much shut them down," Skiles said. "The play he made on Ben at the end of the game shows you what a great player he is."

McGrady split a pair from the line with 21 seconds left for an 80-77 lead and Houston sealed the win when Kirk Hinrich's short jumper with 13 ticks left missed.

McGrady scored 15 points on 6-of 12 shooting and finished 14-of-29 for his sixth consecutive 30-plus point performance. He added eight rebounds and six assists.

"I'm sure that when I look at the tape I will see that we relaxed on a few possessions," Skiles said. "But there were plenty of times where we played good defense on him and he shot right over us."

Juwan Howard had 16 points and nine rebounds and Dikembe Mutombo recorded his seventh consecutive double-digit rebounding performance with 16 for Houston, which has won six of seven and improved to 6-2 without injured center Yao Ming.

Gordon shot 8-of-16 and Deng added 20 points for the Bulls, who shot just 4-of-22 in the dreadful third quarter and dropped to 15-4 at home.

Chicago played without forward P.J. Brown, who was attending to personal matters.

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