for this game

McGrady, Rockets topple lowly Heat

Feb 22, 2008 - 5:26 AM By Ted Dunnam PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) - The Houston Rockets made some moves in the front office earlier on Thursday. Then they made some sweet moves on the court.

Tracy McGrady scored 14 of his 23 points in a 41-point first quarter as the Rockets sprinted to their 10th consecutive win with a 112-100 decision over the lowly Miami Heat.

Yao Ming added 21 points and nine rebounds and Rafer Alston chipped in 16 and 11 assists for Houston, which has won 14 of its last 15 games.

Playing with a short bench after sending Bonzi Wells and Mike James to the New Orleans Hornets earlier in the day, the Rockets' remaining players came out on fire against the Heat. Houston converted 17-of-21 field goal attempts in the first quarter to open a 41-26 lead.

"It was a strange day," Yao said. "We had only 11 players today, and we didn't have much of a bench. Hopefully, the new guys will come in quickly and give us a lift."

The Rockets cooled off dramatically in the second quarter, but still held a comfortable 62-48 lead at the break. Houston led by as much as 20 points (55-35) after Steve Nowak hit a 3-pointer with 3:54 left in the opening half.

Heat forward Shawn Marion was left wondering when the Rockets would cool down.

"We dug a hole that was too deep," Marion said. "We had to exert so much energy in the comeback and we ran out of gas. They were on fire in the first quarter. They shot the lights out."

The dismal first quarter was the latest blow to a team whose struggles continue.

"We have to stay together as a team," Marion said. "We are kind of lifeless out there, and we have to bust through this and things can turn around. It's hard to keep your morale up when you're losing."

Miami, which defeated Houston earlier this season, pulled as close as 74-66 on a 3-pointer by Dwyane Wade with 4:41 left in the third. But the Rockets opened an 87-75 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Wade's basket with 7:39 left pulled Miami within 93-85, but Miami could not draw any closer.

Rockets reserve forward Carl Landry scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half as Houston staved off Miami.

"Every team needs a player that comes in and does the dirty work ... sticks their nose in and brings energy," Landry said. "I think that's my role right now, being the young player on the team to bring energy every night."

Wade scored a game-high 33 points with 11 assists and Marion added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who were outrebounded, 42-34.

"They got into a comfort zone, and they picked up their confidence," Wade said of the Rockets. "They shot the ball so well in the first half. That made it tough."

Heat center Mark Blount echoed those thoughts.

"They were shooting 80 percent in the first quarter," Blount said. "T-Mac was in a zone, and there is not much you can do about that.

"T-Mac came out as a leader and took his team on his shoulders."

McGrady said the trade didn't prove to be a distraction. In addition to acquiring Bobby Jackson and Adam Haluska of New Orleans for Wells and James, the Rockets also picked up Gerald Green from Minnesota for Kirk Snyder.

"From what I got from my team, we didn't think about it," McGrady said of the trades. "We all know the nature of this business - it happens.

"We had a game to play. We had to be professional about it and go out and play the game."

Heat coach Pat Riley was impressed by the Rockets, especially in the first 12 minutes.

"I think Rafer, Tracy and Yao at halftime had only missed four shots," Riley said. "It's tough to stop them when they are shooting the ball so well.

"We made a good run, but we were constantly climbing up a hill all game."

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