for this game

McGrady, Rockets win 19th straight game

Mar 11, 2008 - 4:27 AM By Andrew Ferraro PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets were nothing more than another speed bump in the Houston Rockets' incredible late-season run.

Tracy McGrady scored 19 points and rookie Luis Scola added 12 as the Rockets won their 19th straight game to match the third-longest winning streak in NBA history with a 91-73 victory over the Nets at Toyota Center on Monday.

Rafer Alston scored 12 points and Shane Battier added nine for the Rockets (43-20), who now are 24-9 at home and can extend their streak to 20 straight with a win at Atlanta on Wednesday.

They joined the Los Angeles Lakers, who reeled off 19 in a row from February 4-March 13, 2000.

"Defense wins ballgames, and that's what we're great at," McGrady said. "We didn't shoot the ball particularly well tonight, and our defense bailed us out."

The only other teams with longer streaks were the 1971-72 Lakers, who reeled off an NBA-record 33 straight, and the Milwaukee Bucks, who notched a 20-game winning streak in 1970-71. Both teams won the NBA championship.

"You know in this league one thing you're going to have is off nights on the offensive end," McGrady added. "One thing you can control is how you play defense, and that's every night. I think as a team we really understand that."

Just like they have so many times in the last six weeks, the Rockets played it close early in this one, then exploded in the latter stages to record another blowout win.

Even ageless-wonder Dikembe Mutombo got in on the act as he collected six rebounds, five blocks and a slam dunk in the first half. Houston improved to 7-0 since the team learned that All-Star center Yao Ming would miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his left foot.

The five blocks were a season high for Mutombo, who now has 17 blocks in the seven games since replacing Yao as the Rockets' starting center.

"We were just active," Alston said. "We got our hands on the ball, we were in the passing lane and we were defending the pick-and-rolls better. We get better with each team and we're really well prepared."

Vince Carter scored 13 points, Richard Jefferson added 12 and Devin Harris netted 10 for the Nets (26-38), who dropped their sixth straight game overall and seventh straight away from home.

They are one-half game behind the Atlanta Hawks (26-37) for the eighth and final spot in the East.

New Jersey, which shot just over 19 percent from the floor in the first quarter, made just 24-of-79 shots (30 percent) from the field and only had one lead in the game.

In fact, that lead was the only lead the Nets have had against the Rockets in more than two seasons.

"They literally had everyone inside the paint, and we had to make our shots and we didn't," said Nets coach Lawrence Frank. "We're not going to win any games shooting only 30 percent from the floor."

"We can get back on track. We have to re-dedicate ourselves for the last 20 games," Carter said. "I hope we can turn this around. We have to stay focused and stay together."

Houston's defense held New Jersey to just 21 percent shooting from the floor in the first half en route to an 18-point lead at the break.

The Rockets raced out to an 11-2 lead but went cold from the floor allowing the Nets to get back in the game with a 13-4 run of their own. Harris scored five points during that spurt for New Jersey.

But the Rockets, who led by seven after the first quarter, created offense with their defense and took a 19-point lead with 2:44 left in the half when Mike Harris made a layup.

That capped a 14-2 run for the Houston, which had to find a way to score with McGrady making just one of his seven first-half shots.

"Heck of a defensive effort by our guys," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "First half we were terrific. We wanted to make big jump shots, shots under duress. We pretty much did that until the last couple minutes of the second quarter."

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