McGrady Returns to End Houstonís Slide
Houston 100, Atlanta 85
HOUSTON, Nov. 29 (Ticker) -- All-Star Tracy McGrady returned and flashed his scoring ability to get the Houston Rockets out of their slump.
McGrady scored 17 of his 25 points in the first half as the Houston Rockets snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 100-85 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
"I think I came out in the first couple of minutes very aggressive," McGrady said. "I was a little sore, a little stiff when I came in today. It was a no-brainer I was going to play. It's not going to be 100 percent no matter what I do, no matter how much rest I get."
McGrady found Juwan Howard on a fast break for an easy layup with 5:08 left, pushing Houston's advantage to 88-79. McGrady did show some signs of rust, making 7-of-16 shots and committing eight turnovers.
"The turnovers were from fatigue," he said. "Hopefully, I'm not sore (Wednesday)."
"I think he did fairly well for not having done a whole lot over the last 25 days," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "It showed up a little bit in his ballhandling. He was just tired."
Yao Ming sealed the game with a three-point play with 40 seconds remaining to give the Rockets a 100-85 edge.
Yao had 25 points and 12 rebounds and Howard added 12 points - all in the second half - for Houston, which had six players score in double figures. Rookie Luther Head scored 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Yao made 10-of-17 shots and was more effective offensively with McGrady back on the floor.
"We can't put all the pressure on Tracy because he's back," Yao said. "We can't think that he makes all those shots and we can just relax."
"It's a matter of helping each other," McGrady said of playing with Yao. "He takes a lot off me. When I'm out of the lineup, defenses are keying on him. He could kind of go to work and not worry too much about the double-team."
McGrady also recorded nine rebounds and five assists. "McGrady is obviously our best passer and he's got the size to see over (Atlanta's) length," Van Gundy said. "Plus, they have to play his shot."
McGrady's return came just in time as the Rockets (4-11) would have dropped behind the Hawks (2-11) in the overall standings. But taking the court meant plenty to him.
"When I put on my uniform I felt like a little kid again," he said. "I felt like I had been out forever. I never should have come back the first time (November 12). I was in a lot of pain."
Joe Johnson scored 17 points and Al Harrington collected 14 and nine rebounds for the Hawks, who have not won here since February 25, 1999.
The return of McGrady was not what the youthful Hawks needed.
"I didn't know if he would play," Johnson said. "He makes such a big difference. He is their go-to guy and he made some key plays."
"We knew four or five days ago he would probably be back and we were prepared," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "He's a difference maker."
Van Gundy wasn't pleased with Houston's first half, which ended with the Rockets leading, 52-51.
"I thought we played much better in our losses than we did in the first half," said Van Gundy, who won his 100th game as coach of the Rockets. "We were a little better the second half."
Rookie Salim Stoudamire made his first start for Atlanta in place of Tyronn Lue (root canal) and scored 14 points in 26 minutes.
"I can't get used to losing," he said. "It's the worst feeling in the world."