McGrady’s Exit Leads to Jazz Win
Utah 82, Houston 74
HOUSTON, Dec. 27 (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady left the Houston Rockets at halftime and apparently the team's ability to score went with him.
McGrady collected 21 points and five assists in the first half, but departed to be with his growing family as the Rockets fell apart after the intermission to come up on the short end of an 82-74 contest against the Utah Jazz.
But the Rockets' leading scorer left instead to be with his fiancee, Clerenda, who went into labor with the couple's second child, Laymen Lamar, born at 9:53 p.m. CST.
"What a great player he is and it has to be really tough on (Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy)," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "You have to wonder what will happen next. It's tough on any coach when you have this happen. As coaches, we have to adjust all the time, and this one was probably a new one for Jeff."
Van Gundy, maintaining a season-long stance, wasn't about to pin the loss on McGrady's absence.
"We didn't lose because he wasn't there," Van Gundy said. "We lost because we were inept offensively. What matters is that we fouled too much, we turned it over too much, and I think we probably shot in the 20's. We didn't play well enough on offense to win. We have professional players out there, so we have no excuses."
Already without injured center Yao Ming and key guards Rafer Alston and Jon Barry, Houston could not muster any real offense as the team shot just 14-of-42 (33 percent) after halftime, including a dreadful 1-of-12 performance to start the fourth quarter.
"We felt like we were in control of the game and we just didn't have that scoring in the second half," Houston forward Stromile Swift said.
Utah rallied behind Mehmet Okur, who collected 13 of his 20 points in the second half and tied a season-high with 17 rebounds. Okur said his team felt no affects of Monday's overtime win in Memphis.
"We just came with a lot of effort," he said. "Last night's overtime game was behind us. We came out with a lot of energy. They're a veteran team, they know how to play."
Jarron Collins scored 15 points and Andrei Kirilenko chipped in 10 and eight rebounds for the Jazz, who finished with a 47-45 rebounding edge.
"That's right in my range, 15 feet, especially when I was able to creep in to 10," said Collins, who hit 4-of-5 shots from the field and 7-of-8 free throws. "It's fine with me."
A pair of free throws by Okur made it 72-63 with 3:43 left, but Juwan Howard scored five consecutive points to get the Rockets within 72-68 at the 2:17 mark. However, Devin Brown's layup and Okur's 3-pointer prior to the expiration of the shot clock erased all doubt about the game's outcome.
"We were determined and focused on coming in here and looking for a win," Collins said. "This was important for us. We did the things necessary to win."
Howard scored 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Rockets, who shot 34 percent (26-of-76) from the field, including 2-of-10 from the arc.
"We didn't finish like we should have," Howard said. "You learn from your mistakes."