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Another huge third quarter from McGrady sends Rockets to win

Apr 5, 2008 - 6:57 AM SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady may be getting primed to erase his past playoff shortcomings.

McGrady overcame a poor first half and a bum left shoulder by scoring 18 of his 25 points in the third quarter to lead the Houston Rockets to a 79-66 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Friday.

Although it is in a tie for fifth place in the West with Phoenix (51-25), Houston (51-25) remains 2 1/2 games back of first-place New Orleans (53-22).

"I don't care what anybody says, it was a good win," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "Both teams struggled shooting the ball, but you just take the win and you move on. We had to have the win, now we move on, one step closer to try and get in the playoffs."

Long ridiculed for being unable to advance his teams into the second round of the playoffs, McGrady has been using the third quarter of late to post some incredible numbers and keep the Rockets afloat in the Western Conference playoff race.

Even more impressive is that he is doing it with a sprained left shoulder that hindered him more on Friday than it has lately.

"I was in a lot of pain today," McGrady said. "It was definitely worse than it had been in the past. I don't know why, but today was pretty brutal. I had it wrapped in the first half. It took away the pain a little bit, but I couldn't shoot the ball. I couldn't extend my arm, so I had to get that off. When I took that off, the pain came back.

"I'm not normal right now. My shoulder is pretty banged-up. It's something that I can play through. Every game I've been getting a shot to kind of relieve the pain, so hopefully, by playoff time I won't have to go through all that."

One night after scoring 14 third-quarter points in a nine-point win in Portland, McGrady went off for 18 points during the same period that turned a 41-40 halftime deficit into a 69-54 advantage after three quarters.

After a 2-of-10 start in the first half, McGrady took the brace off his shoulder and placed his team on it, going 9-of-13 in the pivotal quarter.

"The first half was kind of rough for us as a group," McGrady said. "Despite us playing poorly, we were only down one point. It was just a matter of coming out, being focused and taking over the ballgame, whatever you can to help your ballclub win.

"Fortunately, I got it rolling and once I get it rolling, I feel like I'm going to make everything."

Likewise, Houston, which shot just 37 percent (14-for-38) in the first half, torched Seattle with 57 percent (13-for-23) shooting over the next 12 minutes while holding the Sonics to a dismal 28 percent (5-for-18) effort during that time.

Seattle could get no closer than 13 points in the final quarter.

"For three of the four quarters, we defended as well as we can," Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "We wasted a really good defensive effort. We didn't do a good job getting help to whoever was guarding Tracy early, and we let him get going a little bit too easy to start the third."

Bobby Jackson, filling in for point guard Rafer Alston for the second straight contest, added 13 points while rookie Luis Scola pulled down 12 rebounds.

Nick Collison had 15 points and 11 boards and Johan Petro added a career-high-tying 15 rebounds for the Sonics, who have lost five straight and 16 of their last 17 games.

While McGrady was able to overcome his forgettable first half, rookie Kevin Durant did not. He missed his first eight attempts of the game, was 1-for-12 at the half and finished 2-for-17 from the field for the game for a season-low four points.

However, Shane Battier, who defended the Sonics' leading scorer most of the night, cited "the rookie wall" rather than his defense as the reason Durant struggled.

"That's called game No. 74 of a rookie season," Battier said. "I was there. I played on a team that didn't make the playoffs and I was playing 40 minutes a night. By game No. 70, you're bound to have one of these. He'll rebound. We've got to see him next Tuesday, and he'll have a better game."

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