Yao paces Rockets past Hornets
Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Yao Ming scored 30 points, and Tracy McGrady
had 25 points and 10 assists as the Houston Rockets topped the New
Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, 123-112.
Rafer Alston had 21 points and 13 assists for Houston, which won its fourth
straight to move a step closer to clinching home-court advantage in the first
round of the playoffs. Luther Head scored 15 points, and Shane Battier added
David West tied a season-high with 33 points, and Chris Paul scored 20 points
and doled out 15 assists for the Hornets, who have lost two straight to move
to the brink of elimination from postseason contention. The Hornets are now
2 1/2 games behind the Clippers and Warriors for the eighth and final playoff
spot in the Western Conference, with only two games to play. Golden State and
Los Angeles each have three games left.
After the game, Paul was resigned to the fact that, barring a miracle, the
Hornets will be headed for an early offseason.
“I am very disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs,” said Paul. “I love
this team, and we stuck together and never gave up.”
The Hornets played without center Tyson Chandler, who missed his fifth
straight game with an injured left big toe.
A West three-point play sliced the Houston lead to four points, at 107-103
with 2:41 remaining. That was as close as the Hornets would get, though, as
Houston ripped off an 11-0 run to seal the game, with an Alston three and two
Head free throws putting the Rockets up 120-105 with 49 seconds left.
“I came out in the second half in an attack mode,” said McGrady. “We put
ourselves up in a good position, being up by seven in the first half.”
West scored 14 points in the third quarter, but the Hornets could not cut into
the Houston lead, and the Rockets took an 85-78 advantage into the fourth
Alston drilled a three-pointer from the corner with 2.4 seconds left in the
first quarter, and Houston took a 32-30 lead into the second.
A Devin Brown three pulled the Hornets to within 39-38 early in the second,
but Head nailed two threes and a layup to fuel a 14-0 Rockets run, which Yao
capped with a layup to put Houston ahead 53-38 with 4:37 left in the half.
The Hornets trimmed the lead to 57-50 by halftime.
Houston’s 33 assists were a season high…Dikembe Mutombo left in the fourth
quarter with a bruise above his right eye.