Tuesday, December 28, 2004

ockets Keep Clippers at Bay

from NBA.com
Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming got the Los Angeles Clippers back to familiar territory.

McGrady scored 21 points, Yao added 20 and 11 rebounds, and both players blocked three shots to lift the Houston Rockets to a 96-79 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers, who fell below the .500 mark for the first time this season.

After starting the season a promising 11-7, the Clippers have been beset by injuries to the likes of Kerry Kittles and Shaun Livingston and have lost six of their last seven games.

"It's one of those things," Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said. "You know what you have to do as a team, and you have to go out and do it. It's a silver lining for guys to come off the bench and to step up and help our team. Injuries are part of the game."

"We are missing players, but that just means the other guys have to step up their game," Clippers forward Elton Brand said. "We have to get improved scoring from the other guys on this team."

The Rockets defeated the Clippers for the eighth consecutive time by seizing a lead they never relinquished early in the first quarter when they went on a 12-0 run, led by Yao who scored 11 in the first quarter.

"We dictated the rhythm all night and cut down on our turnovers," said Yao, who posted his third straight double-double. "Our defense was very good, too. We limited their scorers' ability."

The Clippers rallied in the third, cutting the lead to 52-49 with 7:50 remaining on a jumper by Corey Maggette, but Jim Jackson nailed back-to-back 3-pointers en route to a season-high 21 for Houston.

"I think we played at a good energy level," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I thought Yao got us off to a good start, and I thought guys did a good job finding him. Everyone did their part. Jim made a lot of threes and we defended well."

McGrady said Wednesday's disappointing loss to the Bobcats had little effect on the Rockets' play against Los Angeles.

"I don't think the last game had anything to do with it," McGrady said. "I think everybody kind of cleared their heads just a little bit. I think some teams probably have a tendency of coming out flat that first game after the holidays. Our intensity was high and our focus was there."

Maggette scored 23 points for Los Angeles, but both he and Brand, who mustered just 11, did not play in the fourth quarter.

Maggette, who wasn't bothered by sitting out the fourth quarter, said the Clippers simply ran into a better team.

"This is a tough team, and they should have a better record," he said. "They are searching for their chemistry, and when they get it, they will be a tough team to beat."

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bobcats 101, Rockets 100, OT

Jenna Fryer / Associated Press, from Foxsports.com
Okafor had 23 points and 17 rebounds, his 12th consecutive double-double, to lead the expansion Bobcats to their first winning streak with a 101-100 overtime victory against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Okafor sent the game into overtime with a dunk over Dikembe Mutombo with 3 seconds left in regulation, then helped Charlotte win its second straight game by battling for a loose ball late in the extra period that sent him to the sideline with a bloody nose.

"Emeka Okafor is a definite star in the making in this league," Houston's Tracy McGrady said.

Clinging to a 98-97 lead, Okafor missed twice on a pair of putback attempts that Charlotte was certain he was fouled on. The Bobcats argued as the Rockets pushed the ball up the court, but Okafor stayed with the play.

Jim Jackson missed a 3 for the Rockets, Mutombo got the rebound and missed on a jumper and Okafor scrambled for the ball. He took an elbow to the nose as the ball bounced out of bounds, but teammate Gerald Wallace was fouled by Bob Sura to go to the line.

Wallace made one free throw for a 99-97 lead with 19 seconds to play and Okafor out getting his nose plugged. He returned as McGrady missed for Houston.

Jamal Sampson was fouled and made both free throws to put Charlotte up 101-97 with 3 seconds to play, a large enough margin to make McGrady's 3-pointer at the buzzer meaningless.

Okafor, the NBA Rookie of the Month for November, has scored in double figures in points and rebounds 16 times this season.

But afterward, he was mostly in awe of Houston's Yao Ming, who had 16 points and 19 rebounds against Okafor before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

"He is so tall," Okafor said. "You see him on TV, and you have no idea. Then I got up against him and I was like 'Dang!' I have no idea how to stop him."

But once Yao went out, Okafor only had Mutombo to deal with and did just fine.

He tied it at 92 with a turnaround jumper over Mutombo with 28 seconds left in regulation, and after McGrady hit a 20-foot jumper that put Houston up 94-92 with 7 seconds to play, Okafor didn't back down. Brevin Knight fired the ball inside, and Okafor jammed it in over Mutombo to tie it with 3 seconds left.

"He hustled," Mutombo said of Okafor. "That's been part of his game since college, trying to go after any loose ball. He did a great job ... I give him all the credit for their win."

Keith Bogans finished with 19 points for Charlotte, Wallace had 15, and Sampson had 11 rebounds for the Bobcats, who won their fifth consecutive game at the Charlotte Coliseum.

McGrady scored 29 for the Rockets, who blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. Houston had 23 turnovers - 18 were Charlotte steals - and was outrebounded 53-43.

"We lost the game on turnovers and bad fouls in the fourth quarter," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I'm very disappointed in the way we played." Bahamas and a Mercedes. ... Wallace took it a step further, giving Christmas gifts to an underprivileged 13-year-old after the game. ... Mutombo had three blocks in the first quarter, including one on Wallace that drew a hearty laugh from fans behind the Charlotte bench. ... Charlotte's Jason Kapono made a halfcourt shot at the end of the first quarter that was waved off. ... It was clear how popular McGrady and Yao are by the 100 or so fans lined up for autographs during warmups.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hornets-Rockets Preview

by the Associated Press, from Foxsports.com
GAME: New Orleans Hornets (1-14) at Houston Rockets (7-11).

TIME: Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

Tracy McGrady is starting to take on more of a leadership role for the Houston Rockets.

McGrady looks to lead the Rockets to back-to-back wins for the first time in more than two weeks when they host the lowly New Orleans Hornets.

McGrady, acquired in a blockbuster trade with Orlando during the offseason, had a long talk with coach Jeff Van Gundy last week about his place on the team.

"I understand what he wants me to do now, which is to be aggressive, the way I was in Orlando," McGrady said. "I was (being) passive."

After that discussion, McGrady went out and scored 48 points Thursday, but the Rockets had their losing streak extended to five games with a 113-106 overtime defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

Houston returned home to face Philadelphia on Saturday, and although McGrady had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, he found his range when it counted most.

McGrady had 17 points, including the winning basket with 25 seconds to play, as the Rockets ended their skid with a 77-76 win over the 76ers.

McGrady missed 16 of 22 shots before hitting the big one.

"I got the shots I wanted tonight, I just couldn't knock them down," said McGrady, whose worst shooting night this season was a 1-for-11 game against Denver on Nov. 27. "But it's not how many you miss. It's the ones you make, and I made the last basket of the game."

Van Gundy got his 300th career coaching victory in his 100th game with the Rockets.

"I thought the more significant baskets he made were when we were down by eight and he made some offensive rebounding plays," Van Gundy said of McGrady. "Those are will plays, and will usually beats skill.

"But obviously the last play of the game was big. He got separation and space and made it after a tough night."

Houston hasn't won consecutive games since Nov. 20-21.

New Orleans dropped its sixth straight and fell to 1-14 on the season with a 92-69 loss to the defending champion Detroit Pistons on Saturday.

All-Stars Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire are out with injuries, along with free-agent pickup Rodney Rogers. Then, less than two minutes into Saturday's game, David West, who had become a recent starter, sprained his right knee and did not return.

"We're real thin right now with the injuries." New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "But that was not the biggest problem. Our lack of intensity was our big problem. This is the first time all season we came out and played scared. We looked like we were afraid of that team. We were scared to compete."

The Hornets have a 3-12 record in Houston.

STANDINGS: Hornets - 5th place, 13 GB, Southwest Division. Rockets - 3rd place, 8{ GB, Southwest Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Hornets - F West or Chris Andersen, F Lee Nailon, C P.J. Brown, G David Wesley, G Junior Harrington. Rockets - F Juwan Howard, F Jim Jackson, C Yao Ming, G McGrady, G Bob Sura.

TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Magloire, 14.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg; Wesley, 4.1 apg. Rockets - McGrady, 21.8 ppg and 5.8 apg; Yao, 8.3 rpg.

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: March 11; Rockets, 97-86. At Houston, the Rockets took a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but had to quell a mild charge led by Davis, who hit 16 of his 30 points over the final 6:38 as New Orleans got the deficit down to seven with 51 seconds to play.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 1-6 on the road; Rockets - 3-5 at home.

INJURIES: Hornets - C Magloire (finger); G Davis (back); F Rogers (knee); F Jamal Mashburn (knee). Rockets - F Bostjan Nachbar (undisclosed); G Tyronn Lue (knee); G Charlie Ward (knee).