for this game

McGrady's big night powers Rockets past Blazers

Apr 4, 2008 - 6:46 AM By Kasey Postlewaite PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) - After suffering their first loss in four months to a team not in the playoff picture, the Houston Rockets turned to Tracy McGrady to help them get back on track.

McGrady scored 26 of his 35 points in the second half, leading the Rockets to a 95-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Houston suffered a one-point setback to Sacramento - its first loss to a team with a losing record since the Rockets lost to the Kings on December 1. Worse yet, it marked the Rockets' fifth loss in eight games since their 22-game winning streak.

"Hey, you gotta move on," McGrady said. "You've got another game. It doesn't take long at all to forget about the past."

With Thursday's win, however, Houston (50-25) became the sixth team in the Western Conference that reach the 50-win mark and moved into a fifth-place tie with idle Phoenix in the conference standings. The win leaves the Rockets 2 1/2 games behind New Orleans (52-22).

"From this point on, every game counts," McGrady said. "You're going to have a team win 50 games and not make the playoffs.

"It's a battle out here. I love it. You're looking around and checking other teams that are behind you or in front of you. One day you can be in the fifth spot but tomorrow you could be in the third spot. It's crazy, man. My head is starting to hurt trying to keep up with this (stuff)."

After Portland took its final lead of the game at 63-61 with 3:49 left in the third quarter on a pair of free throws by Travis Outlaw, McGrady hit a runner on the subsequent possession to spark a quarter-ending 13-0 run that left Houston ahead, 74-63.

McGrady scored 14 points during the pivotal quarter, including 12 of the Rockets' final 16 points over the final 4:39 of the period.

"It's really frustrating when you can play your heart out and build some momentum like we did at the beginning of the third quarter and then in a two-to-three-minute stretch, you lose your focus and momentum," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "When we made runs, Tracy came back and made shots or set up teammates who made shots."

"When the game is close, I try to take it to that other gear," McGrady said. "I just got it rolling offensively and wanted to assert myself on that end. Then I didn't look back."

For an encore, McGrady followed with 10 of Houston's first 12 fourth-quarter points. His three-point play with 5:36 remaining kept the Rockets in command at 86-74 before Aaron Brooks' shot from the arc 2 1/2 minutes put the game out of reach at 91-78.

"That was just a big win for us, on this trip after we started with the first two losses," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "Obviously, the key was that third quarter. We took control at that point. Tracy was terrific. He controlled the game the whole second half."

"That's what those guys do," Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. "That's what the guys of their caliber do - they take over games. He (McGrady) made some big shots and plays for them when they needed it."

Aldridge scored 23 points and Jarrett Jack added 19 for Portland, which has lost four in a row - all without leading scorer Brandon Roy, who is nursing groin and hip injuries. The team was also without swingman Martell Webster, who was taken to the hospital because of flu-like symptoms and dizziness.

While Roy is hopeful that he can return in time for Sunday's home game with San Antonio, Webster's status for that game is uncertain.

"Obviously, Brandon coming back would be good for us," Aldridge said. "That would give us one more person to go to but, most of all, I think we just need to try and put it together for a full 48 minutes on the defensive end. If we can do that, I think we can get some wins again."

Houston point guard Rafer Alston also missed the game due to a hamstring injury.

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