for this game

Yao, McGrady pour it on as Rockets hold off Blazers

Apr 12, 2007 - 5:47 AM PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady have the Houston Rockets banking on some home cooking.

The superstar duo combined for 59 points and Rafer Alston added 23 as the Rockets continued to make a push for the fourth-best record in the West with a 99-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Houston (50-29) has inched 1 1/2 games ahead of the Utah Jazz (48-30) for the fourth-best mark, which translates to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That could come in handy for a team that has not won a playoff series in 10 years.

"I'm not really focused on that as much as I am trying to play better," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Anytime you sweep a road trip in this league is a great accomplishment. Yet we played an awful, awful, awful fourth quarter. My greatest fear is that we continue to make the same mistake.

"We get into a playoff situation and we do the same thing and we have to live with that regret for an entire summer. That we played the score and not the game. That's where mental strength is such a mental component to winning in this league."

The Jazz suffered a 115-106 loss to Denver on Wednesday, setting up an important meeting between the teams on April 18 in Utah.

"I'm more concerned on how we are finishing games (than Utah losing)," McGrady said. "Tonight was a prime example. We can't continue to get big leads on teams and then stop executing and let teams get back into basketball games. We got to be better than that because we have a lot of veterans on this team."

On Monday, Yao netted 31 points in a 95-90 victory over Seattle but absorbed a hard foul from Nick Collison late in the game - sparking an altercation between the two teams. Two nights later, he was showing no ill effects, scoring 27 points on 8-of-18 shooting with 12 rebounds.

McGrady netted 32 points on 10-of-25 from the floor, including 2-of-6 from the arc. But he ran into his own injury problems, leaving the game with 58 seconds left after Trail Blazers rookie Brandon Roy rolled into his knee in a scramble for a loose ball.

"(The knee) is a little sore," McGrady said. "Nothing is torn. I'm sure I'll feel better and it's nothing to worry about. It scared me because the way he landed on my knee. I was able to get up and walk it off.

"I was just in a little pain. The first thing that I thought of when (Roy) landed on it was (injured Washington star) Gilbert Arenas. It definitely wasn't that severe. At that time, the game was irrelevant. My knee was the most important thing to me."

Trailing, 78-59, entering the fourth quarter, Portland outscored Houston, 36-21, in the final period to get back into the game. But after Travis Outlaw nailed a 3-pointer to make it 94-91 with 13 seconds left, Alston nailed three clutch free throws to secure the victory.

"I think we are ready," Alston said. "There are some things we have to iron out. Executing down the stretch and putting teams away. That's been bothering throughout the season. We need to get that figured out because most playoff games come down to the final minute."

Roy scored 20 points and Luke Schenscher added a career-high 18 for Portland, which continues to play without star forward Zach Randolph and rookie forward-center LaMarcus Aldridge.

"It's tough not knowing all the time where your offense is going to come from," Roy said. "We can't complain about it. The only thing we can do is continue to play through it. We still have some guys that can get some things done so that's what we are going to focus on."

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