PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 2 (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady
got hot early and the
rest of his teammates joined him.
McGrady scored 21 of his 34 points in the best first half of the
season for the Houston Rockets, who rolled to a 118-95 victory
over the Philadelphia 76ers.
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The Rockets had seven players in double figures and won for the
fifth time in their last six road games. They swept the season
series and evened the all-time series at 58-58.
The two-time defending NBA scoring champion, McGrady found
himself in an early duel with three-time scoring champion Allen Iverson
of Philadelphia. In the first quarter, McGrady scored
13 points and Iverson 15, with the extra bucket providing the
76ers with a 33-31 lead.
Early in the second period, McGrady made consecutive 3-pointers
and a jumper before a hoop by Juwan Howard
gave Houston a 46-35
lead. A three-point play and layup by Bob Sura
advantage to 59-45 with 4:38 to go.
"I just got off to a great start offensively. I got rolling and
my jumper felt pretty good," McGrady said. "Once I saw Iverson
get hot, I knew that I was going to have to step up my game. It
was a great first half. My team found me in the right spots
and I came through knocking down shots."
The Rockets cooled a bit but still took a 63-55 lead into
intermission. They shot a sizzling 56 percent (23-of-41) from
the floor in their highest-scoring first half of the season.
McGrady had a 3-pointer and two free throws early in the third
period to push the lead to double digits for good. He closed
the quarter with two more from the line and a 22-footer for an
88-71 lead, then drilled another 3-pointer early in the final
period to let the Sixers know there would be no comeback.
"This was a pivotal game for us," McGrady said. "Coming off the
win in Boston, we didn't want to let this one slip away. In the
first half, we did such a great job getting a comfortable lead.
When they made their run, we were able to bounce back."
"It looked like that they were playing the same basketball game
to me," Iverson said. "They were hitting shots. We contested
shots on them, but they were hitting shots. It was just one of
those nights where everything went wrong for us."
McGrady made 10-of-21 shots, including 5-of-10 3-pointers. He
also handed out nine of Houston's 35 assists as unselfishness proved contagious among his teammates.
"We just passed the ball around," McGrady said. "When they keyed
on me, I just passed the ball around and found the open man.
My guys were making shots. It was an unbelievable shooting
performance by our team and that was key."
"He's 6-8 and he can elevate over everyone and make incredible
shots," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy
said. "Everybody needs
somebody like him."
Howard had 14 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for the
Rockets, who shot 54 percent (41-of-76) and made 14-of-25
3-pointers -- one shy of their season high -- as they posted their
second-best output of the season.
"When we get on an offensive roll, we're pretty good," said
Rockets guard Jon Barry
, who came off the bench to score 12
points. "Any time Tracy or Yao (Ming
) gets it going, the other
team is going to pay more attention to them and it opens the
floor for everybody else. It's a lot easier once they get
Iverson had 28 points and 10 assists for the Sixers (21-24), who
allowed at least 110 points for the seventh time this season
and were knocked out of first place in the Atlantic
"We wanted to try to create some space between us and Boston, or
the rest of the Atlantic, and we weren't able to do it. We
tried, we just couldn't get it done," Iverson said.