98 - 96 Final
  for this game

Yao, Rockets thwart Thunder

Jan 10, 2009 - 5:17 AM By Brandon Rush PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- Despite not making a shot from the floor for over seven minutes to start the game, the Houston Rockets built a double-digit lead, then survived a late rally to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-96, on Friday.

The Thunder rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter and eventually tied the game on Jeff Green's layup with 7:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady combined for 12 of their 40 points in the final 4:22 to seal a much-needed road win for the travel-weary Rockets.

"We needed to get this win," Rockets head coach Rick Adelman said. "This has been a long trip. I thought the first half we were a little sluggish, but luckily we were able to get some great play in the second half and get the stops and rebounds we needed."

Houston shot just 5-of-16 (31 percent) from the floor in the first quarter but was able to hit 14-of-16 free throws to stay in the game.

Both Yao and forward Luis Scola battled foul trouble and poor shooting in the first half, only to make strong second-half efforts. Yao and Scola scored 14 apiece, after combining for only two through the end of the first half.

"Luis was huge for us in the third quarter, he finally snapped out of it," Adelman said. "Yao was big for us in the fourth quarter. We made just enough plays to win."

Oklahoma City had a handful of chances to tie or take the lead in the final 81 seconds. Thunder guard Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points, turned the ball over twice and missed a pair of shots in the waning moments to seal Oklahoma City's fate.

McGrady was fouled after rebounding the last of Durant's shots and hit a pair of free throws with eight seconds left.

"I thought they were good looks that didn't go," Durant said. "We probably should have been more aggressive and tried to get to the basket instead of trying to hit jumpers but, if those shots fall, none of that matters.

"We had a chance tonight to steal a game but we let it get away. Again, we had a quarter where we couldn't maintain our focus. We dug ourselves a hole in the second quarter. That forced us to play from behind, we made a big run and could have won."

"Tonight was one of those nights where we felt pretty good," said McGrady, who scored 19 of his team-high 26 in the first half. "But for whatever reason, we couldn't ever get into a flow offensively.

"Yao was struggling, Luis got in foul trouble so I had to do what I could to keep us in the game. Then when Yao and Luis got going in the second half, I deferred to them. They fought and clawed to get back in the game, but we outlasted them."

Despite shooting better percentages from the floor, 3-point, and free-throw line and outrebounding Houston by 13, Oklahoma City turned the ball over 22 times leading to 21 points for the Rockets.