Seven-time All-Star getting plenty of help as Rockets keep rolling Print
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Thursday, 13 March 2008 11:54
NBA Headline News

 HOUSTON (AP) -Tracy McGrady rose over an Atlanta defender, sank a 3-pointer and confidently backpedaled down the court after securing one more win for the Houston Rockets.
McGrady added two free throws to cap a 21-point second half in Houston's 83-75 win over the Hawks, the Rockets' 20th consecutive victory. The seven-time All-Star is making a case for MVP as the Rockets have matched the second-longest win streak in NBA history and marched to the top of the Western Conference standings.
Houston goes for 21 in a row against Charlotte on Friday night.
``As long as this game has been around, not too many people have accomplished what we've accomplished,'' McGrady said. ``Twenty years from now, somebody will possibly be in the same breath as us and mention our name.''
McGrady has averaged 21 points, five rebounds and six assists during the streak, but he's hardly carried the Rockets alone:
- Point guard Rafer Alston has averaged 15 points and seven assists.
- Shane Battier has averaged 10 points and 5.5 rebounds and shot 41 percent from 3-point range (41-for-99) while also guarding the opposing team's best offensive player every game.
- Rookie forward Luis Scola has averaged 11.5 points and seven rebounds, filling the void left when Yao Ming sustained a season-ending foot injury. The Rockets have gone 8-0 since Yao was sidelined and 20-1 since Scola entered the starting lineup in late January.
- Rookie Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes have provided valuable support off the bench. Landry had five straight games in double figures before missing the last three with a bruised right knee and Hayes has grabbed at least nine rebounds in four of his last five games.
- Dikembe Mutombo is still blocking shots and grabbing boards at age 41, and the Rockets have held their last 20 opponents to 88.5 points per game.
``Just how we're playing together, that's the most important thing,'' McGrady said. ``We all rely on each other, we hold each other accountable for what we do on the court. We trust each other. It's all about togetherness.''
McGrady often drew double-teams in Wednesday's win, but that just created opportunities for others. Battier scored 15, Scola had seven and Hayes scored eight.
Coach Rick Adelman's offensive system is built on passing and movement and McGrady's abilities make it all work.
``The thing about him that makes him unique is that he's a very good passer,'' Adelman said. ``He's always looking to get other guys involved.''
It also helps that McGrady feels as healthy as he has in years. He was plagued with back problems the previous two seasons, but met with a specialist in December 2006 and hasn't had a serious problem since. He missed a dozen games last December with tendinitis and swelling in his left knee, but called that injury ``a fluke'' and said it shouldn't bother him again.
The Rockets were 13-15 when McGrady went out with the sore knee after a 94-82 loss in Detroit. Watching from the bench for more than three weeks, McGrady noticed his team starting to gel.
Houston went 7-4 before McGrady came back in the Rockets' 83-81 win over San Antonio on Jan. 19. They're 24-1 since his return.
``My knee injury was really a good thing, to be honest,'' he said. ``It gave the other guys the opportunity to kind of get a rhythm and gain some confidence, because they had to do a little bit more.
``I realized how good they were playing,'' he said. ``When I came back, I tried to play with them in the flow of the offense, get these guys involved and not be as aggressive until I got 100 percent healthy.''
Yao was sidelined on Feb. 26, before the Rockets played Washington, and McGrady knew he had to take over the scoring load again. He's averaged 25 points since Yao went out, including a 41-point effort in a 106-96 win over New Orleans on March 8.
``People tend to forget what I've done in this league and what I'm capable of doing on a nightly basis,'' he said.
McGrady keeps hearing critics say the Rockets have no chance to keep winning without Yao. That just gives McGrady more incentive.
``We're a great team with him, we're a great team without him,'' McGrady said. ``That's just what I believe.''
But he knows he and this team will be measured only by what they do in the postseason. If he and the Rockets flop again, he knows the winning streak will end up meaning nothing.
``I've had some great regular seasons,'' said the two-time scoring champion. ``This has been an unbelievable run. A lot of people can't say they've been a part of this. I definitely honor and cherish this moment.
``At the same time, with me, it's the postseason, trying to advance,'' he said. ``I've won 50 games, I've done some outstanding, memorable things in the regular season. With me, I'm all about the postseason. How far can we go?''
 

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