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Yao, McGrady overcome Alston's folly as Rockets top Clippers

Mar 29, 2007 - 6:27 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Not even a crucial mistake by Rafer Alston could slow down the tandem of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.

McGrady scored 27 points and Yao added 24 and 15 rebounds as the Houston Rockets survived a bad foul by Alston in the waning seconds en route to a 92-87 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Alston had 14 points and nine assists but committed a silly foul on Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley. With Houston leading, 90-87, Mobley attempted an off-balance shot from the arc but was slapped across the wrist by Alston with 2.5 seconds left.

"I did not think we played it well," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I have no idea if it was the right or wrong call. (Mobley) missed the first one anyways, so it is really a moot point."

While replays showed Mobley clearly behind the line, he was only rewarded two foul shots. The veteran guard missed the first free throw and intentionally misfired on a second as Yao corralled the rebound.

"It's not a big deal, its OK," Mobley said. "If you're not sure, all I am saying is go check, it's all right. Let me determine it. Don't you determine it, let me determine it. You know, it's too huge, it's too big."

McGrady shot 12-of-30 from the field and Yao was 8-of-14 and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. The Rockets shot 45 percent (36-of-80) and outrebounded the Clippers, 45-36.

"The game came down to execution," McGrady said. "It was like the playoffs, and it's who's going to do a better job of execution and who's going to stop. For us, it was just all about getting the stop."

But McGrady was the playmaker on a crucial possession, feeding Shane Battier for a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 88-87 with 53 seconds left - a lead the Rockets would not relinquish.

"It was a nice play by Tracy, and obviously a big shot by Shane," Van Gundy said. "We got a couple of stops. We played OK down the stretch."

"We were fortunate enough to come down and get a basket by Shane, pick-and-roll with me and Yao," McGrady said. "He left the corner open, Shane just shot, and it was a big basket for us."

The Rockets improved to 10-3 since Yao returned from injury. The All-Star center missed 31 games with a leg fracture but has come back to cement Houston (46-26) as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.

"Right now, every player is healthy," Yao said. "We can play solid basketball games and the playoffs are close, we need to prepare for that."

Elton Brand scored 24 points for Los Angeles (34-37), which had its four-game winning streak snapped and holds a 1 1/2-game lead over Golden State (33-39) for the final playoff spot in the West.

"If we continue to play this well we will make the playoffs," Brand said. "This could have been a great win for us. It could have given us a record of 35-36 going on the road and a five game winning streak, so I am disappointed."

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