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Archive for Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Yao, T-Mac lift Rockets

Thrilling victory gives Houston 2-0 series lead over Dallas

April 26, 2005

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— With Shaq and Kobe broken up, get ready for the era of Yao and T-Mac. It arrived in Game 2 of the playoffs.

Yao Ming scored 33 points on 13-of-14 shooting -- with his only miss arguably being more of a turnover -- and Tracy McGrady added 28, but it was their spectacular baskets in the final 1:06 that mattered most in Houston's thrilling 113-111 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night for a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

"It's a new series for us. We're definitely in the driver's seat," said McGrady, who is leery of being too optimistic after his team blew a 3-1 lead in his last playoff trip, two years ago with Orlando. "We've got to stay grounded. We haven't done anything yet."

After controlling the opener and the first half of this game, the Rockets trailed 102-95 with 5:36 left when McGrady began a go-ahead run of six straight shots with another of his amazing jumpers. After the Mavericks tied it at 109, Houston's dynamic duo came through again, with McGrady driving to the rim, then slipping the ball to Yao for an easy dunk with 1:06 left.

Dallas answered, though, when Dirk Nowitzki -- who broke out of his series-long slump midway through the fourth quarter -- faked McGrady several times and nailed a jumper from around the free throw line with 10.4 seconds left.

McGrady, however, never hesitated.

Running a play he and coach Jeff Van Gundy set up during the last timeout, but hadn't shared with anyone but Yao, McGrady escaped a trap in the backcourt and set up behind a Yao screen on the top right of the three-point line. He buried a long two-pointer, then made a sneering gesture as the Mavericks called time.

"We shocked them a little bit by not calling time out," McGrady said. "My teammates didn't even know."

Given one last chance to salvage a split at home, Dallas failed when Michael Finley missed a jumper.

"He had a good shot at the free-throw line," Johnson said. "It just didn't go in."

The series moves Thursday night to Houston for Game 3. The Rockets will be carrying a nine-game winning streak, while the Mavs will be reeling from their first consecutive losses under Johnson.

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