Houston - What a difference a rested and rejuvenated Tracy McGrady makes.
Playing for the first time in nearly three weeks, T-Mac returned to the court in fine fashion, falling just one assist shy of a triple-double in the Rockets 119-108 victory over Golden State.
Perhaps most encouraging: McGrady, still in the process of recovering from offseason knee surgery, played without any sort of visible limp and even ditched the shoulder and knee braces with which he’d been playing during the opening month of the season.
In nearly 35 minutes of action, T-Mac totaled 24 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists as Houston pounded the Warriors for the second week in row en route to its 15th victory of the season.
“I felt pretty good,” said McGrady after the game. “The second half I came out a little rusty, but for the most part I felt pretty good. I was trying to do a little extra tonight for us to get a win. I was not tired, my body felt good, I was in a nice little groove tonight.”
The game actually was tight until the Rockets began taking control in the early stages of the second quarter. Carl Landry jumpstarted the surge by blowing past Warriors’ rookie Anthony Randolph for a vicious dunk which left the rim quivering in his wake. Landry scored the first 8 points of the frame for Houston, and shortly after his jam he helped key an 11-0 run which gave the Rockets their first real cushion of the contest.
“The 11-0 run got us the lead at halftime, and that is what we talked about, we had to keep playing defensively,” said Coach Rick Adelman. “If we made them take tough shots, then we are going to open it up because I thought they were going to have a tough time stopping us at the basket.”
Truth be told, Golden State has trouble stopping everyone at the basket, which is why the Warriors came into the contest giving up a league-high 110.8 points per game. So it came as no surprise that the Rockets continued to slice and dice the marshmallow-soft Warrior ‘D’ in the third quarter. But this time, the other half of Houston’s always-dependable power forward combo sparked the Rockets run. Luis Scola came out of the halftime break on fire, pouring in 10 of Houston’s first 12 points as his club continued to pull away.
All told, Scola and Landry combined for a whopping 37 points and 13 rebounds on the night. Their success was no coincidence; with Golden State throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Yao Ming (19 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks) in a futile attempt to shut down the big man, the dynamic duo knew they’d have plenty of scoring opportunities coming their way.
Said Landry: “We went over a game plan that we thought Golden State might [follow], and what Luis and I should do if Yao Ming was fronted. Luis, myself, and my teammates did a good job of getting in the right position, and finding Yao when the opportunity was there.
“We played together as a team tonight, we moved the ball and helped on the defensive end, and did a good job of sprinting back in transition and making it hard for them tonight by not giving them anything easy.”
With a sizeable advantage at its disposal for the majority of the second half, Houston kept things in cruise control as T-Mac and company combined to keep Golden State at bay. The Warriors did manage to trim their deficit to 11 in the final minutes of the fourth, but were never able to pose a legitimately serious threat to the Rockets who, with the win, improved their record to 15-8 and moved a half game ahead of San Antonio for first place in the Southwest Division.
Info Source: www.rockets.com