for this game

Controverial call gives Rockets win over Magic

Jan 5, 2008 - 4:46 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- The Orlando Magic cannot catch a break at home these days.

Yao Ming scored 26 points, Rafer Alston scored the go-ahead layup with 4.3 seconds left, and a controversial call helped the Houston Rockets notch a 96-94 victory over the Magic on Friday.

Jameer Nelson scored 20 points off the bench for Orlando (22-13), which fell to 7-8 at home despite what appeared to be a game-tying tip-in by Adonal Foyle as time expired.

However, after review, officials ruled it was inconclusive, ending the game.

"Those guys have a very difficult job, no matter what you say," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It's a bang-bang play. My question is what was the call on the floor?"

"I saw the light through the basket and I thought I had a good chance of getting it in," said Foyle. "The frustrating thing is that we're giving teams an opportunity to have calls being decided in the last minute."

Alston was prepared for another session.

"I thought we were going to overtime and were getting ready to face overtime," said Alston, who connected on 3-of-4 3-pointers in the game. "It's a tough call to get at home. It was borderline, but it just looked good. We got the benefit of the doubt.

"When they said it was no good, we were just trying to hurry up and take a shower and put our clothes on before they told us to come back on the court," Alston said.

The officials did not speak to the media after the game.

Orlando rallied from 12 points down in the final 5 1/2 minutes and tied the game at 94-94 on a 3-pointer by Rashard Lewis with 19.9 seconds left.

However, Alston used a key screen from Yao, darted around the left wing and laid the ball off the glass for a 96-94 lead with 4.3 seconds left.

"I was amazed that Foyle didn't try to stop me until I got to the rim," Alston said. "When I felt him on the side of me, I knew I could get the ball up. And if I got a good angle on the glass, I knew it was going to drop in."

Lewis tried to answer as he drove the lane, but his layup bounced off the front of the rim. Foyle then appeared to tip in the ball with two-tenths of a second left.

After several minutes, the officials waved off the putback - which replays showed came just before the buzzer - ending the game and sending the crowd home angry.

"The official's call is the final call," Foyle said.

"I couldn't tell, it was really close, obviously," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "But everybody on our side kept saying that it was still in his (Foyle's) hands when the clock went off, so thank goodness it was."

The controversial call spoiled what would have been huge comeback for Orlando, which was coming off a disheartening 96-95 loss to New Jersey here on Wednesday.

Houston played its sixth straight game without All-Star swingman Tracy McGrady, who is out the next seven to 10 days with a left knee injury.

Yao dominated inside and shot 10-of-18 from the floor while grabbing 10 rebounds and forcing Dwight Howard to foul out with just under a minute left in the final period.

"I have to say that Howard has really, really worked hard," Yao said. "He's improved so much from last year. From my standpoint, I need to catch up, so I can play longer against him."

Alston finished with 20 points and eight assists for Houston, which is 3-3 without McGrady.

"Tracy's our captain, so we definitely have had to step it up," Houston reserve guard Aaron Brooks said. "Rafer's really stepped it up. We've needed his leadership, and he's been doing (that) for us."

Lewis scored 16 points and Howard added 16 and eight rebounds for the Magic, who trailed, 89-77, with 5:24 to play before rallying.

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