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McGrady lifts Rockets past Jazz

Jan 6, 2007 - 5:34 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady's back appears to be getting healthy.

McGrady scored a season-high 44 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 100-86 triumph over the Utah Jazz.

After missing seven games last month with back spasms, McGrady has started to round into form, scoring over 30 points for the fourth straight game.

In his best game of the season, McGrady made 14-of-31 shots from the floor and 13-of-16 free throws in 35 minutes.

"There are maybe four, five people on the planet that can do what he does with a basketball," said Rockets forward Shane Battier, who scored 15 points. "We're players, but we're all fans. We rush the ball to get it into No. 1's hands again."

"T-Mac had a terrific game," said Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who scored 16 points. "Guys like him you can't stop alone, you need team help. It's hard when the other team is scoring all the time."

McGrady's jumper with 8:55 remaining in the third quarter capped a 9-0 surge and gave the Rockets a 63-48 cushion.

"Once I got on a roll, guys followed my lead," McGrady said. "I was fortunate enough to knock down a lot of shots and my teammates were giving me the ball. I knew they were going to have to double once a guy has it rolling like that. When my guys are knocking down shots, it's tough to double team."

The Rockets never trailed, building an 18-3 lead less than four minutes into the contest.

"The way we started the game was really special," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We're trying to play quicker, not just in transition."

Dikembe Mutombo had a season-high 19 rebounds for Houston, which shot 42 percent (34-of-82) from the floor.

"This team beat us (bad) in the opener in Utah (107-97 on November 1) and we didn't respond," Mutombo said. "I talked to my team about that before the game. We had to give them something back. We kind of pushed them out of the building. From the beginning it was very physical."

Deron Williams scored 19 points and Carlos Boozer added 15 and grabbed 17 rebounds for Utah, which shot 40 percent (32-of-80), including 5-of-16 from 3-point range.

"They did a terrific job in taking us out of our offense and all we took were outside shots," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We never kept them on defense, maybe 10 seconds at a time. If you don't run your offense, then you had better hit all your shots and we didn't."

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