McGrady, Rocketsí Defense, Down Denver
Houston 89, Denver 78
HOUSTON, March 3 (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming administered the inside-outside attack and the rest of the Houston Rockets contained all of the Denver Nuggets' complementary players.
McGrady scored 23 points, Yao added 21 as the Rockets limited every Nugget except Carmelo Anthony in an 89-78 victory.
"That was by far the most passionate McGrady has played in some time," said Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, who complained about his team's lack of passion in Wednesday's home loss to Philadelphia. "I thought he was off the charts tonight."
Houston took control of the contest at the start of the second half with a 14-4 burst that opened a 60-48 advantage. Yao, who had eight points during the surge, ignited the run with a dunk and capped it with a 10-footer.
†"The last two home games, we really didn't play well," Yao said. "Tonight in the fourth quarter, we played like a team and stayed together. We also played team defense to close the game."
Houston limited the Nuggets to 33 percent shooting (30-of-90) and blocked 11 shots, four by McGrady and three by Yao.
"It mentally affects them and takes them out of the game," McGrady said. "We can be a great defensive team. We've got a coach who emphasizes that every day."
"On the defensive end, they really turned up the pressure on us," Anthony said.
After Denver pulled within 76-70 with 7:48 to play, Houston responded with a 7-0 spurt capped by Stromile Swift's acrobatic layup with 5:41 remaining. The hosts cruised from there to earn their first victory in three meetings with the Nuggets this season. McGrady made 8-of-16 shots, including four from the arc. Yao had nine boards. Swift, who played for the first time from since suffering an ankle injury on February 16, collected 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
†"(Swift) brings a lot of energy," Yao said. "The guy can play (center or power forward), so we have more choices. He's a great cutter. With his size and jumping, he's hard to stop."
Anthony made three 3-pointers and four steals and Marcus Camby collected 10 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for the Nuggets, who shot just 3-of-17 from long distance.
"I didn't know what the numbers were, but I knew I needed to hit some shots," Anthony said. "Then I realized I was going off all by myself."
"If it wasn't for Carmelo, we might have lost by 40," said Denver forward Ruben Patterson, who made just 2-of-12 shots.
Nuggets coach George Karl was not upset by the defeat, which has his team clinging to a 2 1/2-game lead in the Northwest Division.
†"I can honestly label this a good loss," he said. "I thought we did a lot of good things, but we couldn't shoot the ball. We didn't get a good rhythm all night long. (Anthony) needed some help and we couldn't find anyone else to help him."
After falling behind, 24-16, after one quarter, Houston used a 14-6 surge to start the following period and pull even at 30-30 with 6:56 left before intermission.