for this game

Rockets tie franchise mark, win 15th straight

Mar 3, 2008 - 5:01 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The Houston Rockets continued to play Sunday as if they never missed star center Yao Ming.

Tracy McGrady scored 22 points and Shane Battier added a season-high 20 to power the Rockets to their franchise record-tying 15th straight win, a 103-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

It also represented their third straight victory minus Yao, who is out for the season with a stress fracture in his left foot.

"Across the country a lot of commentators and supposed experts were saying we were done (without Yao)," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "I don't think any of us thought that."

The Rockets are proving many people wrong.

"I think that's fueling us," said Houston point guard Rafer Alston, who contributed 16 points and eight assists to the win. "Guys are working that much harder to show we've got a very good team here."

Fortunately for the Rockets, in the NBA, sports talk doesn't matter.

"People keep doubting us," Battier said. "It's not American Idol. Public sentiment does not win the Larry O'Brien (championship) Trophy. You've got to go out and earn it."

The Rockets set the franchise mark of 15 wins in a row in the 1992-93 season and tied it the following year, when they won the first of two straight championships.

Tying that mark didn't get anyone overly excited.

"It's a nice thing to reach, but we're not looking back at it," Adelman said. "Right now, we just want to get ready for the next game (Wednesday vs. Indiana)."

"Who cares?" McGrady said of people burying Houston without Yao. "The experts are not always right. We don't care what anyone says outside this locker room. We're playing great defensively. What more do we have to do?"

Alston did admit to taking a little pride in tying the winning streak.

"It feels great to have my name next to guys who won titles," Alston said of the Hakeem Olajuwon years in Houston.

Battier turned in his regular marvelous job defensively, limiting Nuggets superstar forward Carmelo Anthony - who was averaging 26.0 points - to 19 on 7-of-17 shooting.

"Just try to make them work hard, make them inefficient," Battier said of his approach, whether he is guarding Anthony, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or any other the NBA's top players.

"Fundamentally, he does a great job," Denver coach George Karl said of Battier's defense. "Players that come from great programs (Duke) make very few mistakes, and they understand the game."

Despite all his effort on the defensive end, Battier made a big contribution offensively as well on Sunday, hitting 5-of-10 from beyond the 3-point line.

"On offense I pretty much catch and shoot, so it doesn't take that much energy," he said. "The shots were there. We're doing a good job of keeping spacing, and that's important with Yao out."

Except for Dikembe Mutombo, who played almost 24 minutes, every Rocket seemed capable of scoring. Houston shot 49 percent as a team.

"That's a very good team," Karl said of Houston. "I was very impressed with how well they passed the ball and played defense."

"It wasn't Shane," Anthony said. "Some shots went in and others didn't. Houston is one of the better defensive teams in the NBA and as a team they focus on stopping me." None of the Nuggets, except for guard Anthony Carter, who made all four of his field goal attempts and scored 10 points, had a good night offensively.

"The whole game we controlled the tempo the way we wanted," said Adelman, whose team never trailed after being behind 18-14 late in the first quarter. "You hold them to 89 points, you've done something."

McGrady, who scored eight in the first half, began heating up in the third quarter. He scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the quarter, widening the Rockets' lead to 62-48.

His jumper from the left wing gave Houston a 98-79 bulge with 4:21 left to play.

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