|McGrady scores 30 as Houston beats Charlotte 89-80 for 21st straight win|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 14 March 2008 22:24|
No matter what happens the rest of this season, he and the Houston Rockets have carved a place in NBA history.
McGrady scored 30 points and the Rockets extended their winning streak to 21 games with an 89-80 win over Charlotte on Friday night. The Rockets now own the league's second-longest winning streak, behind only the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33 in a row.
Next up for the Rockets: Sunday's showdown with Kobe Bryant and the current Lakers at the Toyota Center. They're both 45-20, the best record in the West.
``This is pretty remarkable,'' McGrady said. ``I'll always remember this. I'm definitely cherishing this moment. This has been fun.''
The Rockets beat the Lakers 95-93 in the season opener, then lost to them 93-90 in Houston on Nov. 14. Houston was struggling then, still learning first-year coach Rick Adelman's system.
They've been practically unbeatable since the start of the new year, with 30 wins in 33 games. And they've won their last nine since All-Star center Yao Ming went out with a broken foot.
``We have a group that believes in themselves, a group that continues to work hard every single day,'' said Shane Battier, who had 12 points and nine rebounds in Friday's victory. ``It has never been about the streak and it never will be about the streak. It's about making the playoffs and having playoff success.''
After the Lakers on Sunday, Houston faces Boston, New Orleans, Golden State and Phoenix next week. If the streak survives that stretch, the Rockets will certainly silence critics who say they're still not a title contender and have feasted on a weak schedule since their last loss - to Utah on Jan. 27.
``Now the true test comes to see how good we really are,'' McGrady said. ``We're going to find out. This next week is going to be a good week for our team.''
But those challenges can wait. The Rockets were soaking up every moment after keeping the streak alive on Friday.
Adelman called the Rockets run ``the greatest thing I've ever been around,'' and he's taken two teams to the NBA finals.
``Just watching the way the way these guys have responded, these guys have been so neat to be around,'' Adelman said. ``The way they've approached their job, the way they've handled the streak, not getting too far ahead of themselves.
``It's a great accomplishment,'' he said. ``I'm so proud of the team.''
Jason Richardson scored 28 points and Emeka Okafor added 23 for the Bobcats, who've lost five in a row to Houston.
``We were determined to come in here and try and end the streak,'' Richardson said. ``We thought we might be able to sneak up, but they are a very aggressive team.''
The Rockets also extended their home-court winning streak to 14 games, the longest since the 1985-86 team won 20 in a row at the Summit. They had won 13 of their previous 20 games by double digits, but the Bobcats made them work hard.
Houston hit seven of its first 12 shots, then missed its next 14 tries to fuel a 21-1 Charlotte run in the first half.
Charlotte led 43-36 at halftime and Adelman told his team to stay patient.
``During one stage of the first half, we acted like we had to catch them in two minutes,'' Adelman said. ``I said, 'There are 24 minutes in the second half and we have to go out and trust each other, that we're going to fight through this and come out ahead.'''
Houston opened the third quarter with a 26-11 run, started when Battier rebounded his own miss and put back a layup. McGrady sank a shot from the wing with 3:30 left in the quarter to complete the spurt and put the Rockets up 62-54.
The Bobcats pulled within two, but the Rockets scored the first eight points of the final quarter to keep control. After McGrady hit a fadeaway from the baseline, he flexed his muscles and yelled, ``Let's go!'' as he trotted down the court. Reserve forward Mike Harris then scored inside to stretch Houston's lead to 72-62.
The Bobcats twice closed within six, but the Rockets made the stops and free throws when it counted.
``This was a great test for us, to see how mentally strong we are,'' McGrady said.