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Yao, McGrady team up as Rockets rout Nets; Jefferson returns

Mar 10, 2007 - 7:44 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming finally showed what the Houston Rockets are supposed to look like.

McGrady scored 34 points and Yao collected 24 and 13 rebounds as the Rockets rode their two superstars to a 112-91 victory over the struggling New Jersey Nets.

Chuck Hayes had 11 points and seven rebounds for Houston, which now is 2-1 with their franchise center back in the lineup.

"The last three games (with Yao back), I've liked how hard we competed," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "(Yao at 100 percent) is going to be over time. He worked so hard when he was out, he has got a chance of getting back faster than most players. He got kneed in the thigh (Friday). That's why he came out (for a while). He's got buzzard's luck right now."

The 7-5 Yao was sidelined for nearly three months with a broken leg. Although the Rockets managed to go 20-12 without their superstar big man, they are much more dangerous with him.

"It's good not only for the team, but for me," McGrady said. "You're not relying on me for four quarters. It's good to have him back. I don't think he's close at all (to 100 percent). He's just eager to get back on the basketball court. I find myself getting to the basket (easier)."

In his first two games back, Yao had looked rusty and played sloppy with the ball, struggling to get in any kind of a rhythm. He looked more comfortable on the offensive end against the Nets, shooting 6-of-11 from the field and 12-of-13 from the free-throw line.

"I'm getting closer and closer and closer," Yao said. "It was my first game (back) on the home court. I was very excited. I appreciate the fans. The chemistry is not too far away. The chemistry is still in the locker room."

Yao admitted he thought about his cumbersome knee brace.

"When we had a 30-point lead, I worry about the (knee) brace," Yao said. "Earlier in the game, I didn't have time to worry about it. It's OK. But I'll be glad when I don't have it."

A deadly perimeter compliment to Yao, McGrady has carried Houston all season. While some of the load has been lightened with his superstar teammate's return, McGrady still scored at will on Friday, shooting 11-of-25 from the floor.

"The first half of the Cleveland game (Yao's first game back) he (McGrady) was passive," Van Gundy said. "Since then, he's been very aggressive on being a first-option guy. It's not like it's him or Yao. We need both guys playing at a high level."

Star Nets forward Richard Jefferson, who was sidelined since January 22 after having ankle surgery, returned on Friday. He played only 15 minutes and looked rusty, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting.

"This is not about Jefferson, this is about the New Jersey Nets," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "With Richard, we know there will be rust, and he'll just have to to work his way back into action."

Bostjan Nachbar scored a career-high 29 points for the Nets, who shot just 39 percent (32-of-82) to absorb their fourth straight loss, including the first three on a pivotal six-game road trip.

"The first quarter we gave up 31 points and in the third quarter we sent Houston to the line 21 times," Frank said. "Yao and Tracy stepped up in a huge way, and we got outplayed. Without (Nachbar), we probably would have been buried."

"We're in a four-game losing streak and we just want to get ourselves back to where we were," New Jersey guard Vince Carter said. "(Houston) stuck to their philosophy defensively. If you don't make your shots, it's going to be a long night."

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