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McGrady's 28 lifts Rockets past Thunder 98-96

Saturday, January 10, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 1:39 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY – Tracy McGrady scored 26 points and made two critical free throws with 8.2 seconds left to help the Houston Rockets win their second straight road game by holding off the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-96 on Friday night.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Joe Smith, forward Nick Collison, center, and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Joe Smith, forward Nick Collison, center, and Houston Rockets forward Chuck

McGrady, who had missed two of the Rockets' previous three games due to a left knee injury, helped extend Houston's winning streak over the franchise to 10 straight games, including seven when the Oklahoma City team played in Seattle.

The Rockets, coming off a win at defending NBA champion Boston, overcame a quiet night from Yao Ming, who went 3-of-10 from the field and scored 14 points.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points.

Oklahoma City (5-32) won two of its previous three at home games but had a season-worst 42-point loss at Minnesota in its previous game.

Houston beat the Thunder by double digits in the last two meetings this season.

Oklahoma City rallied from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game but never managed to take the lead, despite numerous chances.

Two free throws by Yao put Houston up 95-93 with 1:36 left. The Thunder then missed three straight shots — two by Durant and one by Russell Westbrook — and turned it over when Durant slipped and lost the ball out of bounds.

After Durant's second miss, Westbrook fouled McGrady with 8.2 seconds left, and McGrady made it 97-93, rendering Jeff Green's last-second 3-pointer meaningless. Rafer Alston hit 1 of 2 free throws with 0.1 left.

Yao struggled much of the game, not making his first basket until early in the third quarter, missing a dunk later in that quarter and committing two offensive fouls in the fourth quarter, allowing the Thunder to rally. But he scored nine points in the final 4:22, allowing the Rockets to hang on.

Oklahoma City's 21 turnovers helped negate the Thunder's 44-31 rebounding advantage.

Westbrook scored 15 for Oklahoma City.

Notes:@ Veteran G Chucky Atkins, acquired by the Thunder in a trade with Denver earlier this week, participated in the team's shootaround Friday morning but didn't play against Houston despite being in uniform. Atkins said he hopes to learn enough of the Thunder's system to be able to play by Monday, when they visit New Jersey. ... Houston's Brent Barry skipped the game for personal reasons. The team excused his absence. ... Houston coach Rick Adelman said McGrady won't play on Saturday night when the Rockets host New York. It will be the third straight time McGrady will have skipped the latter game when the Rockets have played on consecutive days ... Houston's Ron Artest didn't play for the third time in the last four games with a right ankle injury. ... Oklahoma City's Desmond Mason sat out with a strained back. Nick Collison replaced him in the Thunder's starting lineup ... The Thunder sold out the Ford Center, drawing 19,136 fans.

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