McGrady Back, Sparks Rockets Over Nets
Rockets 99, New Jersey 91
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 12 (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady returned from a back injury to carry the Houston Rockets.
McGrady scored 20 of his season-high 35 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets held on for a 99-91 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
McGrady scored just five points on 1-of-9 shooting in the first two quarters. He bounced back with 10 points in the third and was unstoppable in the fourth, making 7-of-9 shots from the floor, including four 3-pointers against a porous New Jersey defense.
"I felt pretty good the whole game, I didn't have any physical problems," McGrady said. "In the second half I felt I was going to come out and play better. I was just going to be more aggressive and my shots fell."
With center Yao Ming on the bench in foul trouble, Houston had a 17-point lead dwindle to three after a 3-pointer by Jason Kidd with 8:28 left brought New Jersey within 77-74.
But McGrady buried a 3-pointer over Jeff McInnis 20 seconds later and followed a free throw by Nets center Nenad Krstic with consecutive baskets, including another shot from beyond the arc over Richard Jefferson for an 85-75 cushion.
"When I get that kind of feeling, it's huge," McGrady said. "The defense is pretty much at my mercy."
"We were there a couple of times, a couple of times we weren't there," Kidd said. "He's 6-9 and he can shoot over anybody. All you can do is hope."
After sinking a mid-range jumper, McGrady blocked a layup by Clifford Robinson, leading to a wide-open 3-pointer by David Wesley at the other end with 4:08 to go. Jon Barry added another undefended 3-pointer from the left corner 30 seconds later to give Houston a 93-80 cushion.
McGrady padded the lead with his fourth 3-pointer in a span of five minutes and finished his flurry with a three-point play that gave the Rockets a hefty 99-82 lead with just 2:47 to go.
"That's why you try to get great players," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "It's hard to find them, though."
The Rockets made 7-of-9 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and 13-of-21 overall, taking advantage of a Nets defense that has allowed a league-leading 59 3-pointers in seven games.
"As a whole, our defense is a concern," Kidd said. "If we don't play defense, we don't have a chance."
McGrady finished 13-of-26 from the floor and grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds. Yao had 18 points in 21 minutes and Wesley added a season-high 15 off the bench.
Kidd led the Nets with 20 points and nine assists and Jefferson added 17 points. Carter netted 16 points in a foul-plagued first half in which he played only nine minutes.
"It's definitely frustrating," Carter said. "You can't really get a flow. But it's never an excuse. We have to find a way to win if we want to be what we say we want to be."
McInnis had a season-high 16 points but the Nets shot under 40 percent (29-of-79) for the second straight game and lost starting forward Jason Collins, who aggravated a muscle in his lower right leg early in the third quarter.
McGrady's first points came with 10:07 left in the second quarter on a three-point play that sparked an 11-2 run. Rookie Luther Head buried a pair of 3-pointers during the spurt, which gave the Rockets a 40-26 cushion - their largest of the first half.