McGrady Returns, Leads Rockets to Win
Houston 109, Chicago 108 (2OT)
CHICAGO, Jan. 20 (Ticker) -- Superstar swingman Tracy McGrady's return to the lineup was just enough to stop the Houston Rockets' downward spiral.
McGrady had 35 points and nine rebounds and Juwan Howard scored a season-high 30 points as the Rockets snapped their seven-game slide with a 109-108 double-overtime triumph over the Chicago Bulls.
The Rockets, who average a league-worst 88.4 points per game, have failed to collect a victory without their superstar, going 0-13 in his absence.
"It just felt like (we) had to win this game no matter what it took," McGrady said. "Before the game we said we would monitor my minutes, but it was a winnable game so coach left me out there. I'll be (darned) if I was going to come out anyway, even if he took me out."
On Friday, the 6-8 forward played 40 minutes, connecting on 13-of-29 shots and dishing out six assists.
"I was only going to play him 28 minutes tonight," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We were on target and then along came overtime. We wanted to get this win."
The Bulls trailed, 106-103, in double overtime before Luol Deng made a shot from the arc at the 1:21 mark. But on the ensuing possession, McGrady answered with 3-pointer of his own.
"I felt very comfortable out there tonight," McGrady said. "I caught a second wind late in the game, and then any defender was pretty much at my mercy. Everything just went smoothly for me."
Darius Songaila's jumper cut the deficit to 109-108 with 35 seconds left. After McGrady missed a jumper, Chicago had a chance to win, but Kirk Hinrich came up short on a driving layup with one second left.
"First I slipped and fell down," Hinrich said. "Then I got up and tried to turn the corner but he (McGrady) bodied me up and I didn't get a very good shot off."
Houston led, 100-98, in the first overtime before Songaila tied it on an easy dunk with six seconds to go. McGrady missed 3-pointer at the horn.
The game was tied, 88-88, with under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter when Deng nailed a jumper. Off his own miss, McGrady grabbed the rebound and drilled a jumper with 2.1 seconds left.
"I just went out and played the game," McGrady said. "I tried to do what I could do, I'm still not 100 percent. When I'm on the court, nobody will have any pity for me, or feel sorry for me so when I'm out there. I'm out there to compete."
The Bulls had a chance to win in regulation, but Ben Gordon - who won Wednesday's game against New York with a 22-footer at the buzzer - missed a 3-pointer at the horn.
"We did not play well enough to win," said Chicago coach Scott Skiles, who kept the locker room closed for 25 minutes after the game for a team meeting. "We had way too many breakdowns, mentally and physically. We had a lot of trouble tonight from beginning to end maintaining our focus, and we paid for it."
David Wesley scored 17 points and rookie Chuck Hayes had season highs of 12 and 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who shot 46 percent (44-of-94) from the field.
"I'm just enjoying the moment," said Hayes, who made 4-of-5 shots. "The guys really congratulated me when we came off the floor and said how much they appreciated my effort."
"We turned Chuck into an All-Star tonight," Skiles said.
Deng scored 19 points and Gordon added 18 for Chicago, which shot 40 percent (41-of-101).