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McGrady scores 15 as Rockets hand Blazers rare home loss

Jan 26, 2008 - 7:33 AM PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- After setting the basketball world on fire in December, the Portland Trail Blazers have come back to earth.

The Blazers shot poorly and made a total of seven field goals in the second half to suffer their first home loss in nearly two months, 89-79, to the Houston Rockets on Friday.

Tracy McGrady scored 15 points off the bench and rookie forwards Luis Scola and Carl Landry combined for 23 points and 20 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won four games in a row.

"I think we've found ourselves," McGrady said. "It's coming down to a pivotal stretch for us in the season and, right now, we just got to gain some ground. This is a time where we need to be playing great basketball, and I think we are doing that now."

"This is kind off a win we talked about and one we felt we needed to get," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "They are ahead of us in the standings, so we knew the importance. We will play a lot of teams like that."

Portland vaulted to the top of the Western Conference in December and early January while winning 17 out of 18 games despite having the youngest roster in the NBA. A seven-game road trip earned it just a 3-4 record, but a trip home was supposed to right the ship once again.

"What we got to remember is that this is still a learning process," Blazers guard Brandon Roy said. "I think what people got to understand that when we say we're fatigued, that's different than veteran teams being fatigued. They've been through this and we are still trying to find ourselves."

Winners of 12 straight at home - a string that began December 6 against Miami - the Blazers jumped out to a 23-16 lead after the first quarter and led 50-42 at the half on Saturday before falling apart.

"We came out aggressive, and I felt like we had something going before halftime," Roy said. "After that, they stepped up the intensity straight out of the locker room and our rhythm got bad. They started crashing the boards and their bench came in and gave them a big lift."

McGrady, who was coming off the bench for the fourth straight game since returning from a knee injury, put the game away with 4:31 remaining in the fourth quarter when his 3-pointer gave Houston a 77-73 advantage.

Scola followed with a jumper and Landry converted a three-point play to stretch the lead to 82-73 with 2:48 to play.

"I didn't expect to be 11 years in the league and be out there with three rookies (Scola, Landry, Aaron Brooks) in crucial situations," McGrady said. "I can't fathom that right now. Those guys played basketball and they played hard."

"It was good out there. They're young, and we're young, too," said Landry, who made 5-of-6 shots en route to 12 points. "It turned into a dogfight out there with everyone scrapping. It was just nice to get out with a win."

Trailing by eight at the half, the Rockets came out of the locker room on fire, connecting on six of their first eight attempts from the field during a 14-1 run. Rafer Alston scored five points during the spurt as Houston took a 56-51 lead with 7:58 left in the third quarter.

"I think that was a great tribute to our starting group," McGrady said. "They came out with great energy and set the tone right away. Then the bench came in, and we just sustained that. We maintained what they started."

The Blazers, who shot just 35 percent (25-of-70) from the field, battled back to a draw even at 62-62 at the end of the third quarter, despite totaling just 12 points in the period on 3-of-15 shooting.

Portland grabbed its last lead of the contest when Travis Outlaw split a pair of free throws for a 69-68 advantage with 8:47 left in the contest, before Houston clamped down on the defensive end.

The Rockets held the home team to just three field goals over the last 10 minutes of the game and just four total in the fourth quarter.

"We're not going to blame this on fatigue," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "We've got to learn how to take care of our bodies and we've got to be mentally ready. What I saw tonight is that we just didn't have our legs. We're just not as strong as we've been."

Roy scored 23 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 14 and Outlaw chipped in 13 off the bench for the Blazers, who got just 29 points out of the rest of the team while getting dominated on the glass, 48-30.

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