SEATTLE, March 8 (Ticker) --
A nearly perfect performance from Tracy McGrady
and a historically bad third quarter by the Seattle
SuperSonics resulted in a big road win for the Houston Rockets.
After the Rockets' defense keyed a third-quarter surge, McGrady
scored 11 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter and made a pair
of big baskets down the stretch in a 97-95 victory.
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Seattle wasted a 16-point lead in its second straight home loss
and can look at its third-quarter showing as the reason. The
Sonics scored just six points, establishing a franchise low for
"This just shows the poise that we have in pressure situations
like this," McGrady said. "Those guys came out on fire in the
first half with 9-of-12 from (3-point range), but we picked up
our intensity on the defensive end. We shut those guys down
with six points in the third quarter. With scorers like they
have, that's big for us."
Seattle had scored eight points in a quarter three times
previously, most recently nearly one year ago at Miami.
The Sonics shot 3-of-14 and committed seven turnovers in the
third period, watching a 59-50 halftime lead turn into a 72-65
Seattle coach Nate McMillan
cited a lack of ball movement after
a first half in which his club passed well and protected the
"We go from 17 assists in the first half to only four in the
second half," McMillan said. "We played in traffic and didn't do
a good job of taking care of the ball. We had 17 turnovers for
22 points and that was the ballgame."
"I thought tonight in the second half we had an edge to us,"
Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy
said. "In the first half I thought
we were fishing on offense and we were irresponsible on defense.
We are in a fight for our playoff lives, so these games are
much more critical to us than they are to them."
The Sonics hold a comfortable 10 1/2-game lead over the Denver
Nuggets in the Northwest Division while the Rockets are clinging
to the sixth spot in the Western Conference standings.
Following a late charge by the home team, McGrady did everything
he could to keep the Rockets in charge. Rashard Lewis
3-pointer with one minute left pulled Seattle into an 88-88 tie,
but McGrady answered just six seconds later with a 3-pointer of
his own to give Houston the lead for good.
"When you've got a guy like (Rockets center Yao Ming
around down there it brings a lot of attention and it opens up
the perimeter for myself," McGrady added.
With the Rockets clinging to a 93-92 edge with 14 seconds left,
McGrady got free on an inbounds pass for a layup, drawing a
foul. He missed the free throw, giving the Sonics one last
chance, but Lewis missed a long 3-pointer with six seconds to
Yao scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half for the
Rockets, who avenged an 87-85 home loss to Seattle on Feb.
22. He notched six points in the final 1:54, including a basket
with 26 seconds to go that made it 93-90.
McGrady finished with eight rebounds, five assists and four
steals without a turnover.
scored 32 points and Lewis added 26 but just one other
player reached double figures for the Sonics. Despite a strong
effort from both, the star tandem was not immune to their team's
third-quarter woes, combining to shoot 2-of-8 with three
"That was one of the worst third quarters we've played this
year," Allen said. "Being part of it, it didn't seem like it was
that bad. We still had a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
Tracy made some big plays and Yao made some big plays."
Allen gave much of the credit to Yao's play in the second half.
"Yao is probably the one big man I fear getting the ball at the
end of the game," he said. "He's so big and he does have a touch
around the basket. Jerome James
did all he could do to keep
him away from the basket, and as big as Jerome is, he can still
turn around and shoot over him."
James said Yao gave him all he could handle.
"It's hard to stop him," said the 7-1 James. "We played great
defense on him for 3 1/2 quarters and all of a sudden the last
eight minutes of the fourth quarter, calls started going his
way. I think that was the key to the game. If I was able to
keep him from making two or three of those baskets that would
have given us better position to win it."