McGrady, Rockets edge Timberwolves with big fourthMar 27, 2008 - 4:58 AM By Jeremy Rakes PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter as the Houston Rockets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 97-86, on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
Rookie Luis Scola added 18 points and a season-high 18 rebounds for the Rockets (49-23), who stayed one game back of the New Orleans Hornets (49-21) for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The Hornets got a last-second jumper from David West to win at Cleveland, 100-99, on Wednesday.
Rafer Alston netted 10 of his 12 points in the first quarter and rookie Carl Landry chipped in 11 off the bench for Houston, which needed to hold off the pesky Timberwolves down the stretch.
"It was a tough game. We just never could open the game up against them," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "They did a good job. They did a nice job of penetrating and finding people all night long.
"Tracy came up big in the second half, and Luis was great the whole game. Eighteen and 18, heck of a game, but one we needed to get."
After the Rockets extended their lead to 72-62 on Landry's three-point play to begin the fourth quarter, Minnesota scored eight straight points - the last six by Rashad McCants to cut the lead to 72-70 on pull-up jumper with 9:33 remaining.
But that was when McGrady, who only scored 13 points through three quarters on 4-of-15 shooting, woke up.
McGrady hit a jumper to start a 14-4 run which gave the Rockets an 86-74 lead with 5:42 remaining. McGrady scored 10 points in the spurt.
"I've been struggling with my shots in the first half," said McGrady, who was troubled by a left shoulder injury. "Maybe, I need to focus like I do in the fourth quarter. I don't know, I just can't seem to find the rhythm, but the fourth quarter is usually when the best player has to step up and lead the team.
"I couldn't afford for us to lose this game, so I had to impose my will on it."
The Rockets extended their lead to as many as 10 in the third period, 60-50, on two McGrady free throws with 6:24 remaining. Houston was up 69-60 entering the fourth.
After a back-and-forth first quarter which saw eight lead changes and six ties, the Rockets started to take control of the game in the second quarter and went into halftime up, 46-42.
Bobby Jackson gave Houston its largest lead of the half, 39-31, on a layup with 5:56 remaining in the second quarter, but the Timberwolves narrowed the gap with Kirk Snyder hitting on a driving layup with 37 seconds to go in the half to cut the lead to four.
McGrady finished the night 9-of-25 from the field and also had 11 rebounds and nine assists, but said after that his shoulder did bother him some.
"It bothered me a little bit," McGrady said. "I got a shot before the game. In the second half, I didn't feel it as much as I did the first half, so I was fine in the second half."
Al Jefferson collected 21 points and 10 rebounds, Ryan Gomes added 17 and nine and McCants finished with 16 points for Minnesota, who was outrebounded, 58-38, and 20-7 on the offensive glass.
"They beat us pretty good on the boards, and that is not a surprise since they are second in the league in rebounding," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "Our defense wasn't too bad, but we gave up too many second-chance baskets.
"They back-doored us on layups when we got close in the fourth quarter, and that was pretty much the difference. We fought and played hard, but consistently, we needed to play the right way and we didn't.
"Our whole effort was good. In the first half, we did some good things, but we need to learn to play for a full 48 minutes."
Houston needed the win as it goes on the road for five straight starting at San Antonio on Sunday.
"Right now, every game is important," Scola said. "You win one game then you go up to the two spot. You lose one game, and you go back down to seven. That's the way it is, and that's they way it's going to be from now on until the season ends. We have to be ready, we have to play hard, and we have to win as many games as we can because if we don't, then we're going down."
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