Rockets put 22-game win streak on line against NBA's best team Print
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Monday, 17 March 2008 11:00
NBA Headline News

 HOUSTON (AP) - Tracy McGrady bent over exhausted at midcourt after the Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to 22 games by beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
There's no time to rest, however. The Rockets host Boston, the NBA's best team, on Tuesday.
``It's going to be a challenge, it's going to be a tough game for us,'' McGrady said. ``But we're capable of winning it.''
The Rockets' streak was already the second-longest in NBA history and they took over the top spot in the Western Conference with Sunday's 104-92 victory. McGrady scored only 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting and the win showed again that the Rockets have become more than a one-man show since Yao Ming went down with a foot injury 10 games ago.
``That's the makeup of our team,'' McGrady said. ``You just can't rely on one guy. There are going to be some nights where I'm going to be off. We have multiple guys who can pick up the slack. That's a good thing to have.''
Point guard Rafer Alston hit eight 3-pointers and scored 31 points on Sunday, and has averaged 16 points and 6.6 assists during the streak.
Shane Battier has shot 39 percent from 3-point range and embraced the role of defensive stopper, handling the opponents' most dynamic scorer. He harassed Kobe Bryant into an 11-for-33 performance on Sunday.
Luis Scola is making a case for rookie of the year, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds since Yao was injured.
Alston credits Coach Rick Adelman for implementing a system that keeps every player in the mix. The Rockets run set plays, but the offense mostly relies on cuts and motion, giving anyone who gets open a chance to score.
``We're getting it every night from different guys,'' said Alston, who had five assists on Sunday. ``We can call a play for Tracy, but everyone is still involved in that play. We're all moving, the ball's hopping.''
Even when Adelman has turned to his bench during the streak, his unsung reserves have produced.
Bobby Jackson scored 19 points on Sunday, his best game since the Rockets acquired him on Feb. 21. Chuck Hayes had 12 rebounds in Houston's 83-75 win in Atlanta last Wednesday and 10 boards in the win before that. Steve Novak sank a game-winning 3-pointer against Sacramento on Feb. 13, the eighth victory in the streak. Luther Head scored 20 points in the 111-107 win over Golden State that launched the streak on Jan. 29.
``What's good is we're getting four or five people in double figures every night, so we're not relying on just Tracy trying to get 41 points,'' Alston said. ``That says a lot about us and our team and how everyone has turned their games up.''
The unlikeliest new hero is Mike Harris, a 6-foot-6 forward who was playing in China in February. The Rockets reluctantly cut the rookie from Rice in the preseason, but never forgot him.
Harris averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds in 25 games with DongGuan in the Chinese Basketball Association. That season ended last month and when rookie Carl Landry went down with a bruised knee, Harris was back in Houston working out. The Rockets offered him a 10-day contract and he was playing two days later.
Harris had six points and seven rebounds in his NBA debut, Houston's 91-73 win over New Jersey on March 10. He had six points and five rebounds in the second quarter Sunday as the Rockets opened a 15-point lead.
``It gave me a lot of confidence to get thrown out there so early,'' Harris said. ``It kind of caught me off guard. Coach was walking down to the end of the bench and I thought he was looking at the game. He gave my name a call and I was kind of shocked for a second. It was great and I'm very grateful that they gave me the opportunity.''
The Rockets rewarded Harris with another 10-day contract on Monday. Landry said he may return Tuesday and the Rockets were also planning to work out 38-year-old Dale Davis to possibly join them for the stretch run.
As remarkable as their season has become, the Rockets say there's nothing to celebrate yet. After all, they're only six games ahead of ninth-place Denver in the tightly bunched West.
``Even though we've won so many games in a row, we have to keep winning,'' Alston said. ``We're only like 1 1/2 games ahead of a couple of teams. If we keep winning and if other teams continue to lose, we widen the gap. So, every game is important until we have a three- or four-game cushion on these guys.''
 

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