McGrady, Yao carry Rockets past HornetsApr 15, 2007 - 4:41 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The New Orleans Hornets let Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets break through at the wrong time.
McGrady scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets won their fourth straight game with a 123-112 victory over the Hornets, whose playoffs hope are barely on life-support.
All-Star Yao Ming netted 30 points and Rafer Alston collected 21 points for Houston, which avoided a season-series sweep by the Hornets.
"It was one of my best in the offensive category," Alston said. "My defense could have been better in containing (Chris) Paul on the pick-and-roll."
A two-time scoring champ, McGrady continued his late-season push for MVP consideration, making 11-of-18 shots to go along with 10 assists and seven rebounds.
It was Yao's sixth 30-point performance since returning from his fractured leg on March 5.
The win also kept the Rockets (51-29) two games ahead of Utah (49-31) for home-court advantage in their likely first-round Western Conference playoffs matchup. Utah fell, 126-98, to Phoenix on Saturday.
In the fourth quarter, reserve Juwan Howard scored four of his 10 points with back-to-back baskets to help the Rockets push their lead to 95-82 at the 8:12 mark.
But the Hornets did not surrender easily, closing within 107-103 when Marc Jackson found David West, who converted a three-point play with 2:41 remaining.
The Hornets got back in the game due to Paul's penetration.
"It's tough when Paul is penetrating and West and Jackson are shooting on top," Yao said. "We made some mistakes on the pick-and-roll in the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, we played better coverage."
However, McGrady scored five straight points, highlighted by his own three-point play, and Shane Battier and Alston drained consecutive shots from the arc with 1:02 left to build a 118-105 cushion.
"I came out in the second half in an attack mode," McGrady said. "We put ourselves in a good position, being up seven in the first half. I just wanted to put my will on the game, especially in the fourth quarter."
"His greatness. ... (McGrady) can just rise above the defender and shoot the ball," Alston said. "That's tough on the defender because the defender can play their best defense, and Tracy can score above one or two defenders whenever he wants."
West scored a season high-tying 33 points and Paul had 21 points and 15 assists for the Hornets (37-43), who are now 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers (39-40) and Golden State for the final playoff spot in the West.
Hornets coach Byron Scott blamed his team's poor defense on the loss of Tyson Chandler (toe) and Desmond Mason (broken nose).
"The last week or so, our defense has suffered," Scott said. "We've been missing our two best defensive players and it shows. This game shows how important Tyson and Desmond are to the success of this team."
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