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McGrady comes up big against Bulls

January 8th, 2007
by John

It was another pathetic game on Monday night with the Rockets. They were stinking up the place with poor shooting. Rafer Alston missed his first 10 shots, the Rockets had made only 13-of-43 shots (30%) in the first half, missed 14 three-pointers in a row, and had only 30 points to show for it, a season-low.

Luckily Chicago wasn’t shooting much better, scoring only 40 points by halftime. But with 50% team shooting in the third quarter, Tracy McGrady bounced back from a 3-of-10 first half, put the team on his back and scored 25 points in the second half to pull out an improbable win, 84-77.

Ben Gordon was schooling the Rockets in the fourth, and if it hadn’t been for Van Gundy putting Shane Battier on Gprdon defensively instead of Alston, the Bulls would have won this game. The Rockets couldn’t stop Gordon. But after Battier was assigned to him late in the fourth, Shane came up big with two stops late in the game.

Battier is like Kevin Garnett or Bruce Bowen in that he can defend almost anyone of any size. When the Rockets made the trade for him before the draft instead of picking Rudy Gay, everyone said he was being acquired in part because of defensive ability. We all knew that, but it just didn’t sound very exciting at the time, and it’s hard to point to a tangible play where defense wins a game. But in this case, Battier’s defense on Gordon resulted in a true ‘W.’

T-Mac’s performance was nothing short of remarkable. It’s like when the game gets serious in the second half, and especially the fourth quarter, he rises to the occasion, keeps you in the game, and gives you a great chance to win it. He almost was able to do that on Sunday against Minnesota. On Monday, his hitting two three-pointers in a row to make it 63-55 was the separation the Rockets were looking for, and down the stretch he made big shots to win it.

On the flipside, Alston’s 2-of-14 shooting is astounding. I’ve never seen a guy miss so many layups and shots around the basket as this guy. Before the game, Van Gundy was adamant that for the time being, Alston is their guy and nothing is going to happen to replace him. But I’ve got to think that stance can only last so long as Alston continues to miss easy shots. The Rockets won Monday night in spite of him.