McGrady wins in return to Orlando

Friday, January 21st 2005, 6:51 am
By: News On 6

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Grant Hill sees the change in Tracy McGrady's game.

Playing in Orlando for the first time since a bitter parting last summer, McGrady scored 27 points to lead a balanced offense, and the Houston Rockets beat the Magic 108-99 on Thursday night.

``I think he realizes that other guys getting touches, getting involved early helps closing games out,'' said Hill, sidelined for almost all of McGrady's stay in Orlando. ``It might not be as sexy as scoring 50 ... but you can see the growth on his part.''

Unlike his time in Orlando, when McGrady was often the Magic's first, last and only scoring option, his Rockets teammates can help _ and he is willing to lean on them.

Yao Ming added 20 points, and Bob Sura had 19 points, a season-high 11 rebounds and nine assists. David Wesley scored 18, and Juwan Howard 13.

``I didn't want to come out and make it a Tracy McGrady show, jacking up shots and playing outside the offense,'' said McGrady, who shot 8-of-21, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, but made 10 of 12 free throws.

``I was calm and I was in the flow. Whatever Coach called, I ran.''

Added Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy: ``I thought he struck the right balance. He played the game to win, versus as an individual showcase.''

In other games, it was Dallas 99, the Los Angeles Clippers 77; and Sacramento 123, Cleveland 96.

The Rockets' team effort translated to the boards, where they scored 28 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds.

``Our guys were much more active trying to pursue second shots tonight,'' Van Gundy said. ``The more penetration you get, the more their bigs have to come off to help and/or try to block and that leaves more opportunities.''

Said Orlando coach Johnny Davis: ``Against a team like that, you can't allow them to have second shots because they're not really a team that can overwhelm you. But if you allow them second shots, they can be pretty effective.''

Yao made his first seven shots, which had to please McGrady. In Orlando, he quickly grew tired of looking inside and seeing has-beens (Patrick Ewing, Shawn Kemp) and role players (Andrew DeClercq, Michael Doleac).

``Our guys battled him, but he's 9 inches taller, or whatever it is, and shot over the top of them,'' Davis said. ``But they did compete against him. He scored, but it wasn't easy for him.''

Steve Francis, the biggest name Orlando received in the McGrady trade, led the Magic with 28 points and nine assists. Kelvin Cato, who also came over from Houston, tied his season high with 14 points.

Hill had 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting, the day after an MRI exam on his sore right wrist showed only a bruise. On Tuesday, he scored a season-low eight points on 4-for-14 shooting.

``Part of me thought I shouldn't go,'' Hill said. ``But it's Houston, Steve Francis, Mac, TNT.''

It didn't take long for McGrady to make his presence felt again in Orlando. He scored nine in the first quarter, his shot clock-beating 3-pointer putting Houston ahead 33-21.

The Magic trailed by 17 midway through the second quarter, but rallied to cut the deficit to four with 3:37 remaining.

That's when McGrady stopped the comeback. He hit two free throws, then sank a layup off an inbounds pass under the basket for a 100-93 lead.

``I really enjoyed myself, and it felt better when we got that 'W,''' McGrady said. ``That was the main thing _ just to get that win, regardless of how I played.''

Mavericks 99, Clippers 77

At Dallas, Jason Terry scored 11 of his 15 points in the third quarter, when the Mavericks went ahead to stay against the suddenly struggling Clippers.

With Avery Johnson coaching while Don Nelson missed his first game after shoulder surgery, the Mavericks went on a 14-6 run over the final 3:44 of the third quarter. Terry had half the points in the game-turning stretch.

Los Angeles has lost four straight and six of eight. The Clippers (18-21) are three games under .500 for the first time this season.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 28 points. Elton Brand had 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers.

Kings 123, Cavaliers 96

At Sacramento, Calif., Mike Bibby had 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the second triple-double of his career, and the Kings shut down LeBron James in their sixth straight victory.

Chris Webber had 27 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Kings, who streaked to a big lead in the third quarter with an impressive exhibition of passing.

Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points and Cuttino Mobley had 18, while Brad Miller added 16 on 7-of-7 shooting. With Bibby leading the way, Sacramento racked up 34 assists and just eight turnovers in its highest-scoring game of the season.

One night after becoming the youngest player in NBA history to get a triple-double, James had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists while disappearing for long stretches. Drew Gooden scored 17 for the Cavaliers.