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McGrady, Rockets extend SuperSonics' road woes

Feb 1, 2007 - 6:24 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady and Luther Head kept Seattle from getting over its road woes at their expense.

McGrady carried Houston for three quarters and Head hit big shots in the fourth to lead the Rockets to a 112-102 victory over the road-weary SuperSonics.

Houston led, 85-82, after three thanks to McGrady, who scored 31 of his 36 points in the first three quarters. Head helped the Rockets pull away late and post their second four-game winning streak this month.

"I thought our energy was better (in the fourth quarter)," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We played really small. I thought it was a little bit better, and all aspects of our game on defense weren't good enough to win normally, but it was good enough tonight. As long as we acknowledge the fact that it's not good enough, we're still happy with the win."

While the Rockets are streaking, even without star center Yao Ming, the SuperSonics are mired in one of the worst road losing skids in franchise history.

The loss to Houston was Seattle's 14th straight on the road, tying a franchise record for most consecutive defeats away from home. The last time Seattle dropped 14 straight road games was from March 23, 1976 to December 1, 1977.

"It's not a streak you want to have," Seattle center Nick Collison said. "It's very frustrating, and it's no fun to lose this much on the road."

Head scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and hit a pair of big 3-pointers to keep Seattle from mounting a comeback. A 3-pointer by Head with 5:48 to play made it 96-88 and he connected again from the arc two minutes later to push Houston's lead to 101-92.

"Although Luther has had some struggles at the point, he's a big shot maker in the fourth," Van Gundy said. "He made two big ones. I stuck with him. He's proven in his time here than in the fourth quarter, that he's one of the best shot makers, from range, in the league."

McGrady added nine assists as did Rafer Alston, who also had 15 points. Chuck Hayes added 12 points for the Rockets, who made 11 3-pointers and outscored the SuperSonics, 23-5, at the foul line.

"We understand the task at hand. We know that we don't have (Yao Ming) down in the post who is going to give us 25 points and 10 rebounds a night," McGrady said. "That gives other guys opportunities to step up and take on that challenge, and I think they've been doing a great job of it.

"I just think that we're playing with a swagger right now. We're playing great basketball, and we've got to continue to play that way, regardless of who's in the lineup. I just think that with me being healthy, I'm playing with a great deal of confidence, and my team is doing the same."

Ray Allen scored 36 points and Collison added 25 and 17 rebounds for Seattle, which faded down the stretch.

"It's small, little stuff that is hurting us," Allen said. "It boils down to us forcing them to do something that is not in their comfort zone. We have to get to the free-throw line, and others have to start hitting outside jump shots. Our guys are learning on the job, and it is a group effort. As a team, we have to do better."

The SuperSonics shot 58 percent (36-of-62) through three quarters but were just 9-of-25 from the field over the final 12 minutes.

"Our plan was to go to the boards, which we did, and cut down their 3-point shooting," SuperSonics coach Bob Hill said. "We did a good job of that in the first half, but then in the second half, things got out of hand. We were right there to the bitter end, and I was very proud of our effort. It was great."

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