for this game

McGrady helps Rockets torch Suns

Apr 12, 2008 - 5:59 AM By Andrew J. Ferraro PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- After falling behind by double digits in the first quarter, the Houston Rockets roared back and flattened the high-powered Phoenix Suns with a 101-90 victory on Friday night at Toyota Center.

Tracy McGrady returned from a one-game absence to score 22 points and Luis Scola and fellow rookie Carl Landry added 14 for the Rockets, who have won five straight games and seven of nine overall.

With the win, Houston (54-25) is just one game back of the first-place New Orleans Hornets (55-24), who lost to the second-place Los Angeles Lakers (55-25) on Friday night.

The Rockets are tied with the third-place San Antonio Spurs (54-25) but remain in the fifth position because they lose a tiebreaker for the second spot in the Southwest Division.

Amare Stoudemire was outstanding in a losing effort, posting 37 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns (53-27), who dropped to sixth place in the West standings.

"You've got to give them a lot of credit. They played hard and went after all the loose balls and were more physical than us," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They just got us. Their bench turned the game around. You expect Tracy, but their other guys came in.

"(Scola) killed us. In the second half, we didn't hit shots and dug a hole too deep to get out of."

Playing without defensive star Shane Battier, who sat out with an injury, the Rockets stepped up defensively and held Phoenix's high-scoring offensive in check.

"(Battier's absence) gives our guys an opportunity to go out there and show why they need to be playing," McGrady said. "It gives you and opportunity to go out there and relax. There's no pressure on you, just to go out there and try to contribute the best way you can. And we do that."

Houston outscored Phoenix, 30-19, in the second quarter and took its biggest lead of the opening half when Chuck Hayes scored on a tip-in to make it 57-44 with 1:07 left. The Rockets held a 59-47 edge at the halftime.

"The way Phoenix started this game, they really ran at us," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "They came out, had a lot of energy and we withstood that rally, got back in it and from the middle of that 1st quarter on, we just played a solid game all the way through and kept them in control.

"That's a very good team and our guys, they came out with a real resolve and it showed."

The Rockets rode the wave of a halftime celebration honoring former center Hakeem Olajuwon, who was elected to the Hall of Fame on Monday, to extend their advantage to 82-66 after three quarters and never looked back.

"We really needed this game," Scola said. "We could have fallen all the way to the sixth spot and lose our home-court advantage (in the playoffs). It was really important game. We have a couple of really tough games coming up and we need to win games. If we win games and get the home-court advantage, that'll be great for us."

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