Rockets win again without McGradyDec 30, 2007 - 5:51 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SEATTLE (Ticker) -- The Houston Rockets are trying to prove they can win without Tracy McGrady.
Houston won back-to-back games on back-to-back nights minus McGrady by beating the Toronto Raptors, 91-79, on Saturday night with fellow superstar Yao Ming and guards Rafer Alston and Luther Head picking up some of the forward's slack.
Yao scored 25 points, Alston added 18 and Head 13 for the Rockets, who again had to play without a hobbled McGrady (left knee tendinitis).
Yao scored eight in a row for Houston in the fourth quarter, and Head followed with a 3-pointer to give the Rockets an 85-75 edge with 2:26 to play and effectively seal the win.
"That's the time you have to go," Yao said of the fourth quarter, adding that he had struggled shooting for the first three periods. "I had like seven turnovers going into the fourth and I didn't want anymore. I wanted to put the ball into the hoop, get a lead and go home and sleep."
Yao has been bothered by the flu the last few days and playing back-to-back in Memphis and Houston didn't provide time for much rest.
"I have problems breathing," he said. "There's a lot of fluid in my lungs, in my nose."
"In the fourth quarter, we just tried to go through Yao because we had a little mismatch there," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "He did a better job (in the fourth) of mixing it up. He faced up a few times. He spun to the baseline a few times and got fouled.
"They bang on him so much that he gets caught up in trying to bang back and that throws his shot off sometimes. When you get to the last six minutes, and you have him on the floor, he's a good guy to go."
Toronto had no answer for Yao.
"We wanted to try and double Yao, but he really made it tough on us," Raptors forward Jason Kapono said. "They made threes late in the fourth and broke it open."
Alston, picking up his offense without McGrady, tied his season high in points.
"I try to be a little more aggressive on the offensive end of the court," he said. "I do it in the context of the offense, in the flow of the game."
Alston added that having Yao for a teammate makes his job as point guard much easier. Yao contributed three assists against the Raptors.
"Yao's a willing passer," Alston said. "We're going into him to score, but he makes plays (by passing). He's not going to force the issue."
Head hit a trio of 3-pointers, scoring whenever the Rockets seeemed to need a basket the most. Rookie Aaron Brooks also provided some quickness when Alston took a rest.
"They put energy and intensity into the game," Alston said of Brooks and Head.
Adelman was pleased with the progress of Brooks, the first-round pick from Oregon, who was briefly sent down to the D-League.
"He's a threat when he gets the ball," the coach said of Brooks. "He gets them back on their heels."
Both teams, playing the second game of back-to-backs, looked lifeless for most of the first half. Toronto led by five points late in the second quarter.
Alston then made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with five seconds remaining and Shane Battier intercepted the long inbounds pass and drove for the basket with one second left to tie the game at halftime.
"I saw (Chris) Bosh do his Tom Brady impression, telling Anthony Parker to go deep," Battier laughed. "He threw it up, and I did my Bob Sanders impression and went up and got the pick.
"With (a few) seconds left, I was going to the rack. I was scared Bosh was going to block it, but I was able to make a dipsy-dooer. Sometimes, you need a play to energize you."
The Rockets play again Monday night vs. Golden State and McGrady's status is uncertain.
"We didn't think about, is Tracy here, is Tracy not here," Battier said. "If we play with energy and balance, we're a tough team to beat. Although we shot poorly tonight (39 percent), we ran good offense."
Winning two games in a row for the first time since December 5-7 without McGrady helped Houston's psyche.
"It's important to show ourselves we can play without one of our superstars," Alston said. "Don't mistake it, we need Tracy."
The Raptors shot just 37 percent for the game.
"We are trying to figure out why we are not scoring, because our defense isn't the problem," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "I feel we can score, but we're not getting any easy baskets."
Bosh led the Raptors with 19 points, but shot 7-of-20.
"If we take better shots and hit our free throws (Toronto made 9-of-17 from the line) we can do better," Bosh said.
"We were just out of synch," Kapono said. "We played good defense, but didn't shoot well."
The Rockets have won three out of four to get back to .500.
"The last five or six games, except for the second half in Detroit, we played pretty well," Adelman concluded. "We didn't get wins in all of them."
HOUSTON 91 FINAL
Dec 29 10:42 PM
HOUSTON 68 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 29 10:14 PM
HOUSTON 40 HALFTIME
Dec 29 9:31 PM
HOUSTON 19 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 29 9:03 PM
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