NBA Game Summary - Phoenix at Houston
(Friday, April 11th)
Final Score: Houston 101, Phoenix 90
Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Tracy McGrady had 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and the Houston Rockets kept pace in the heated Western Conference playoff push with a convincing 101-90 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Toyota Center.
McGrady took over in the second half, hitting for 17 of his 22 after the intermission. Luis Scola contributed 19 points and five boards, while Dikembe Mutombo was instrumental in slowing down Phoenix's vaunted up-tempo attack, accounting for eight points, eight boards and three blocked shots.
Houston (54-25) moved to within one game of front-running New Orleans in the Southwest Division as well as the conference, and increased its cushion over the Suns for the West's fifth seed to 1 1/2 games. The Rockets, who won their fifth straight, now hold the tiebreaker over Phoenix, should the two teams finish with identical regular-season records.
Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 37 points and 11 boards, but scored just two in the final stanza. Shaquille O'Neal went for 16 points and 11 rebounds, but committed five turnovers and appeared bothered by Mutombo, an old nemesis.
The Suns (53-27) not only lost valuable ground on Houston, but forfeited any chance at winning the division title, as the Pacific-leading Lakers topped New Orleans Friday, 107-104.
Phoenix made just one field goal during a span of nearly five minutes in the fourth, and it cost them, as Houston was content to play a half-court game and milk the clock. McGrady's jumper made it 94-77 with 6:50 to go before O'Neal ended the drought with a dunk at the 4:50 mark.
McGrady and Scola responded with back-to-back two-pointers, pushing the lead out to 17 just ahead of the three-minute mark, and the usually streaky Suns had no more furious pushes left in them.
"We're really playing well," McGrady said of his team. "We answered the challenge tonight. They got out to a 13-2 lead, but once we settled down, ran our offense and buckled down on the defensive end...we did a great job of holding them."
Carl Landry had 14 points and seven rebounds and Bobby Jackson scored 13, spearheading a Rockets bench that outscored Phoenix's reserves, 43-26.
Leandro Barbosa totaled 12 points for the Suns, but Steve Nash was held to six points and nine assists on 2-of-9 shooting, thanks mostly to sticky defense by Houston's Rafer Alston.
"They played great," Nash said. "They played harder and smarter than we did, and after a slow start they woke up and outplayed us from top to bottom. Their bench was the story. They just outhustled us tonight."
Houston recovered from an early 13-2 deficit to take a 29-28 lead after one quarter, then used a 12-4 second-quarter burst to go up 53-41 with about three minutes to go in the half.
The lead was 59-47 at the break, and the Rockets quickly stretched the margin to 16 on McGrady's jumper just over three minutes into the third, making it 65-49. But Phoenix had a spurt of its own, ripping off eight unanswered to pull back within eight, 65-57, on Stoudemire's two free throws with 6:59 left.
Scola's jumper and Chuck Hayes' bucket in traffic bookended a 17-9 Rockets run to close the stanza, and the lead was 82-66 going to the fourth.
Houston committed a season-low five turnovers while forcing the Suns into 15 giveaways...The Rockets shot 51 percent (45-for-88) on the night to outweigh a 9-for-19 (47.4 percent) performance at the foul line...O'Neal was 7-of-12 from the field and also finished with four assists...The Rockets were without forward Shane Battier, who is nursing a bruised left foot...Prior to the game, Houston signed center Loren Woods for the remainder of the season.
04/12 01:25:52 ET