McGrady, Rockets win 21st straight gameMar 15, 2008 - 5:08 AM By Ted Dunnam PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The sizzling Houston Rockets now own the second-longest winning streak in NBA history and a spot alongside the Los Angeles Lakers at the top of the Western Conference.
Helping erase a 13-point first-half deficit, Tracy McGrady scored 30 points as the resilient Rockets won their 21st consecutive game with an 89-80 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
In surpassing the 20-game winning streak it shared with the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks, Houston now trails only the NBA-record 33-game victory string by 1971-72 Lakers.
Rafer Alston scored 17 points and rookie Luis Scola added 13 for the Rockets, who haven't lost since falling to the Utah Jazz, 97-89, on January 27. As a result, Houston (45-20) now is tied with the Lakers (45-20) for the top spot in the Western Conference.
McGrady played all 48 minutes in leading the Rockets to the win.
"This was a great test to see how mentally strong we really are," McGrady said. "(Charlotte) brought their 'A' game. They played well, they executed their offense, they were running out on us.
"Once we got into it, we didn't look back. This is pretty remarkable. I will always remember this. I am definitely cherishing this moment."
The Rockets scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to turn a 64-62 advantage into a 10-point lead it would not relinquish. Houston held Charlotte without a field goal for the first 4:58 of the final period.
The Rockets held their biggest lead at 85-71 in the fourth quarter following Mike Harris' three-point play.
"We've got a good streak going here, but you can't get too high or two low," Harris said. "After tonight, you enjoy it, and then you come back in tomorrow, have a shootaround and focus on the Lakers."
Alston knows Houston's lastest win wasn't a thing of beauty, but he isn't apologizing for it.
"That's just the fight in us," Alston said. "We've been showing that throughout this impressive streak.
"We were able to find some energy in the second half and get some layups. We got some free throws, got a little rhythm. Tracy was attacking and we had a 1-2 combination of either hitting the jump shot or driving to the basket."
The Rockets led 17-8 in the first quarter after McGrady's three-point play with 6:40 left, but then suffered through a scoring drought of nearly seven minutes as the Bobcats went on a 21-1 run. Jason Richardson scored 13 consecutive points during that stretch.
Richardson finished the first half with 18 points, and Okafor added 15 on 7-of-10 shooting for Charlotte.
Richardson scored 28 points and Okafor added 23 for the Bobcats, who led by as many as 13 in the first half before the Rockets whittled the lead to 43-36 by halftime.
"We were determined to come in here and try to end the streak," Richardson said. "We thought we might be able to sneak up, but they are a very aggressive team and picked it up in the second half.
"When you win 21 games in a row, it's not about one person, it's about an entire team. Tracy is carrying the load and leading the team, and should be in consideration for the MVP award."
Bobcats guard Matt Carroll had a dismal night, scoring just three points while drawing the defensive assignment on McGrady.
"Their positioning and help defense is outstanding," Carroll said. "McGrady didn't leave me one time all game. They are a very smart defensive team.
"They don't give you any good looks, and they don't make mistakes. I guess we made history tonight. McGrady can get his shot off whenever he wants it, and that's what makes him so tough."
Rockets coach Rick Adelman knows his team has achieved something remarkable even if Houston isn't earning universal praise for its torrid streak.
"I just think it's an unbelievable accomplishment. You have to give (the players) tremendous credit. We really stuck with it," Adelman said. "I think the biggest thing for us is to try to put yourself in a position in this league and try to take advantage of it.
"These last two games have been really tough. I think maybe we wanted it too much during parts of this game the way we played. However, we got this, and it will move us into striking distance of the first seed."
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