McGrady, Rockets win 20th straight gameMar 13, 2008 - 3:31 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets shook off a miserable first half to match the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
McGrady poured in 21 of his team-high 28 points in the second half and Shane Battier added 15 to lead the Rockets to their 20th consecutive win with an 83-75 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
Reserve Chuck Hayes had eight points and 12 rebounds and Luther Head scored seven for the Rockets, who became just the third team in NBA history to win at least 20 straight games, matching the streak of the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks.
That team rattled off 20 straight from February 6-March 8, 1971. The only team with a streak longer than the Rockets and Bucks is the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers, who won an NBA-best 33 straight from November 5, 1971-January 7, 1972.
"It's unbelievable (to win) 20 in a row, especially at this level," McGrady said. "I really couldn't explain it.
"For me, to be on this team and winning 20 straight, it's going to be up there (with my other accomplishments). There are many great things that I've accomplished in this league. You look at the 72-10 Bulls, and they didn't win 20. This is pretty special."
The streak has catapulted revitalized Rockets (44-20) - who were an afterthought on January 2 when the club was a dismal 15-17 - into a first place tie with the San Antonio Spurs (44-20) in the Southwest Division.
Houston also moved to within one game of the idle Los Angeles Lakers (45-19) for first place in the Western Conference.
Veteran center Dikembe Mutombo had a message for those doubting the Rockets.
"The Rockets have won 20 games straight," the baritoned 16-year vet Mutombo said twice as reporters entered Houston's locker room. "All the critics can kiss my (rear end)."
The Rockets took control of the game down the stretch, embarking on a 10-0 run to put the game away.
After Joe Johnson connected on two free throws to cut the deficit to 71-70 with 5:00 remaining, McGrady and the Rockets would not be denied.
McGrady missed four consecutive shots on Houston's next possession, but the defense was there to pull down the rebound each time before the Rockets' superstar finally found Hayes for a layup with 4:07 later.
"That one possession was huge," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "They got three or four cracks at it. That was a big possession."
Houston failed to convert again from the field on its next possession, but rookie Luis Scola was there for the putback to extend the lead to five.
Things got easier for Houston from there, as McGrady tallied the next six points, including a 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining to give Houston an 81-70 lead.
"I was just attacking the basket," McGrady said. "I wanted to be aggressive. When my shots didn't fall, my teammates were able to pick up offensive rebounds."
The only intrigue thereafter was whether the Rockets would set an NBA record by recording a double-digit win for the 11th consecutive game. And Houston looked as if it was on the verge of setting the mark, after the club led 83-73 after McGrady connected on two free throws with 35 seconds remaining.
But McGrady missed a 3-pointer and Marvin Williams grabbed the rebound and spoiled Houston's chance to stand alone in the record books when he followed with a fast-break dunk with five seconds remaining.
The Rockets didn't seem too concerned with making history as they dribbled out the ball to end the game, perhaps more satisfied with their comeback and their place in the tight Western Conference standings than setting an NBA record.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game, but our guys stayed mentally tough," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "It's great to get the win, not only because of the streak, but also to continue positioning ourselves in the playoff hunt."
"I didn't want them to get to 20 games," Hawks rookie center Al Horford said. "It's something you obviously don't see every day. I really don't know (if it can continue). It will be interesting to see if it stands up."
McGrady had a miserable first half, scoring seven points on just 2-of-10 shooting from the field. His team was not much better, scoring a season-low 32 points in the period.
But things are going so well for the Rockets that they spotted the Hawks a 10-point lead and still won the game convincingly.
"We're really happy with this win, because we didn't play well in the first half," McGrady said. "This is a pretty ugly game. We didn't shoot well, and it was one of those games that our defense really had to win it for us."
Johnson got Atlanta off to a torrid start, connecting on two 3-pointers in a 14-4 spurt to start the game.
When he wasn't draining 3-pointers, Johnson - the lone All-Star for the Hawks - was finding others in the post, recording two assists during the run, including a dish on Josh Smith's highlight-reel dunk with 7:03 remaining to put the exclamation point on the spurt.
"Early in the game, we were missing shot after shot and couldn't make anything," Adelman said. "I think the thing that was good was our defense, which kept us in the game."
But the resilient Rockets answered right back with a 14-4 run of their own to draw the contest even through one period. Battier poured in seven, and McGrady added five to help level the score at 18-18 through the game's first 12 minutes.
"Tonight was all perseverance," Battier said. "We shot 30 percent from the field and allowed them to outrebound us on the offensive end. Our defense was outstanding tonight. (Atlanta) had to work for every basket they got."
Johnson poured in 28 points and Smith had 16 and a career-high 22 rebounds for the Hawks, who snapped a three-game home winning streak against the Rockets.
ATLANTA 75 FINAL
Mar 12 9:22 PM
ATLANTA 57 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 12 8:51 PM
ATLANTA 33 HALFTIME
Mar 12 8:08 PM
ATLANTA 18 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 12 7:37 PM
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