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McGrady's 3-flowin' ways a real Rocket boost

HOUSTON (AP) -- Tracy McGrady was racing down the court with the
ball, his eyes focused squarely on the basket and the fate of the
game in his hands.

No way he was going to settle for a tie and overtime. McGrady
was thinking about making a game-winning 3-pointer the whole time.

"I wanted to take my chances," McGrady said. "At that point,
I felt anything I threw up was going to go in. The rim felt really,
really big."

So McGrady let fly with a running 3 with 1.7 seconds left,
capping a one-man rally in the final minute to send the Houston
Rockets to an improbable 81-80 win over San Antonio on Thursday
night.

McGrady scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds, including four
difficult 3s, to finish with 33 points, eight rebounds and five
steals in a terrific clutch performance.

"It was unbelievable," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich,
shaking his head. "End of story. Guys get hot."

The sleepy-eyed, 25-year-old All-Star put on a virtuoso finish
that rivaled any of the top last-second efforts in the league
record books.

McGrady's amazing display inevitably brought back memories of
Reggie Miller's career-defining moment against the New York Knicks
in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in 1995. Miller
scored eight straight points in the final 8.9 seconds of Indiana's
107-105 win.

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, an assistant coach for the Knicks
then, was even stumped for a comparison to McGrady's fourth-quarter
flourish.

"Sometimes when you work, you get miracles," he said.

The Rockets have won three straight for the first time this
season, and snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Spurs.

The Spurs lost their second straight, a night after a tough
defeat against Seattle in San Antonio.

This loss, however, may be much harder for the Spurs to swallow.

"They played a great last 50 seconds ... Tracy did," said a
sullen Tim Duncan. "They found a way to win and it was a tough
loss for us."

With just over a minute left in what seemed to be another ugly
home loss, the Rockets were being roundly booed following Bob
Sura's airball on a 3-point attempt with Houston trailing 74-64.

By that time, much of the crowd of 16,170 at Toyota Center had
cleared. The rest were heading for the exits.

Then, Yao Ming followed McGrady's miss on a layup, Scott Padgett
stole an inbounds pass and went in for a dunk and the Rockets were
finally within striking distance. McGrady completed a four-point
play with 24.3 seconds left to pull Houston within 78-75.

Duncan hit two free throws to give San Antonio an 80-75 lead,
but McGrady quickly responded with a leaping, 3-pointer over Bruce
Bowen with 11.2 seconds to go.

San Antonio called a timeout, but Devin Brown slipped and
fumbled away the ball under the basket on the next possession.
McGrady stole the ball away on his way to the game-winning
27-footer.

"I haven't seen anybody do something like that before," Brown
said of McGrady. "He was just hitting shot after shot. He was
fantastic."

McGrady was mobbed by teammates near midcourt, while
red-and-white confetti poured from the roof. The Spurs watched the
celebration then walked off the court in stunned silence.

"I swear, I've never been a part of anything like that,"
McGrady said. "That was like the best feeling to me, just to have
my teammates embrace me and just jumping on me like that. That was
a great feeling."

Then, he smiled.

"For all those fans who left the game early ... ya'll missed a
great game," he said.

Yao had 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who had no
one else score more than five points.

Duncan finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds, and Brown had 12
of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs fell apart
down the stretch in what was a huge collapse by one of the NBA's
best teams.

"On a normal team, you might expect that to happen," Brown
said. "But in San Antonio, we know what we have to do and for
whatever reason it just didn't happen. It's very frustrating."
^Notes:@ San Antonio tied its season low for points, shooting just
34 percent. The Rockets also held the Spurs to 12 first-quarter
points, the lowest total they've held an opponent to in that
quarter this season. ... The Spurs had won 21 of the previous 23
games coming in. ... Yao scored 20 points or more for the third
straight time, a first for this season this season. ... Rockets F
Ryan Bowen made his second start of the season, going scoreless in
22 minutes. ... The Rockets set a season high with a free-throw
percentage of 94.7. They made 18 of 19 attempts.