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Yao, McGrady lead Rockets past Sonics

Apr 10, 2007 - 7:05 AM SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady helped pull the Houston Rockets even with the Utah Jazz.

Yao scored 31 points and McGrady added 27 as the Rockets took down the Seattle SuperSonics, 95-90, to pull ahead of Utah for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference.

The two All-Stars combined to shoot 20-of-43 from the floor and 18-of-21 from the free throw-line.

The Rockets (49-29), who limited the Sonics to just 40 percent (33-of-83) shooting, have a half-game edge over Utah (48-28), which lost later Monday night at Golden State. The Jazz are the fourth seed due to winning their division, but Houston would get home-court advantage with a better record.

The Rockets have not won a playoff series since 1996-97.

Houston came to life in the third quarter after Seattle forward Nick Collison committed a flagrant-1 foul by grabbing Yao around the shoulder and pulling him to the floor.

"In those situations you have to play with poise," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We made our free throws and I think we scored so that is the best way to respond. You have to play with poise and play as efficient as possible."

"In that situation I just want to put the ball in the hole," Yao said. "I just try to put every ball in the hole. Every time I touch the ball I try to do that. ... That was my reaction (to the foul)."

McGrady drew a technical foul at the 5:05 mark when he came to Yao's defense.

"I felt like that was an unnecessary foul," McGrady said. "In that situation who knows what can happen to our big fella. Something can happen to his knee or something or he could get a dislocation or something like that. Really, anything and that's why I acted the way I acted. I just felt like it was an unnecessary foul. I felt like we reacted well and in the heat of the battle you have to move forward."

"I was on the ground but I heard that he got a fine but that is called a teammate," Yao said. "He really stands up for me and I appreciate that."

The 7-5 center responded by scoring eight straight points and poured in 15 of his 31 points in the third quarter.

"We just made a concerted effort to get him the ball and he exerted himself on the offensive end, drawing fouls, making shots and it opened it up for the guys on the outside," McGrady said. "After that flagrant foul, we just wanted to get him the ball. He did a great job of really controlling the game."

Houston pulled ahead early in the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run which pushed the lead to 84-75 with 5:48 to play. McGrady had four points during the spurt.

Rafer Alston scored 16 points and Luther Head added 12 for Houston. The two guards combined to knock down five free throws in the final 32 seconds to seal the win.

Dikembe Mutombo grabbed 10 rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench for the Rockets, who end the season at Utah on April 18.

Rashard Lewis, who scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback win over Utah on Saturday, shot just 6-of-24 and managed 20 points for the Sonics, who were without point guards Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson.

It's very frustrating, we're losing, a lot of guys are getting injured and can't get a call," Lewis said. "It's just frustrating right now. With Earl (Watson) going out, Luke (Ridnour) is out, it just seems like we're going out one at a time. It kind of concerns me a little bit to have these last four games being out there. It's hard to score when you don't have nobody to open it up for you.

"The main thing is, I don't want to get injured before this season's over with, so it kind of made me want to take a step back."

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