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Padgett's 3 puts Houston ahead to stay

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Tracy McGrady passed the ball instead of
taking a late shot to give Houston the lead -- and the unheralded
Scott Padgett gave the Rockets' scoring leader every reason to do
it again.

McGrady scored 10 of his 33 points in the final period to help
Houston overcome a 10-point deficit, then set up Padgett's late 3
in an 82-77 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday
night.

"When I see my team is struggling, I've got to be that guy to
make a play -- and the right play -- whether it be scoring or a pass
to one of my players in the right position for them to score,"
McGrady said.

Padgett hadn't scored a point when he entered the game in the
fourth quarter. He hit a pair of jumpers before his late 3 made it
76-73 with 28 seconds left, giving Houston the lead for good en
route to its fourth straight victory.

McGrady set up the play by starting to drive from the right wing
before finding Padgett above the top of the key.

Padgett "was wide open, absolutely wide open," McGrady said.
"I kind of baited them a little bit like I was going to the hole
and the help (defense) stayed on me, so I just kicked it to him. I
like to take the big shot, but if I'm double-teamed, I'm going to
make the right play."

Padgett, averaging 2.6 points, didn't hesitate.

"For (McGrady) to have the faith that one of us can step up and
make the play -- that's something on him because he was killing them
all night," Padgett said. "Most of the time I'm not the guy that
that everybody's saying, 'Hey, he's the guy who should take the
shot."

Houston then made six free throws to close out the game.

Yao Ming had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Seven of his rebounds
were on the offensive end, including three in the fourth quarter to
keep alive key possessions during Houston's comeback. His jump hook
completed Houston's surge, tying the game at 71 with 3:40 to go.

The Hornets regained the lead on Lee Nailon's jumper over
McGrady with just over two minutes left, but after Houston
rebounded Padgett's missed 3-pointer, McGrady hit a pair of free
throws to tie it again with 1:06 to go.

Dan Dickau led New Orleans with 23 points and a career-high 10
assists. Nailon and P.J. Brown each finished with 17 points. Brown
also had 10 rebounds and two blocks. It was the first home loss for
the Hornets (7-34) in five games.

"There is no way we should be on the losing end of this one,"
Brown said. "We just seemed to break down. You have to play your
best basketball in the later part of the game and we did not save
our best for last."

David Wesley's 3-pointer, which tied the game at 55, was
Houston's only field goal in the last six minutes of the third
period. Soon after, the Hornets used a pair of jumpers by Brown and
Dickau to cap a 14-3 run that gave New Orleans the largest lead of
the game to that point, 63-55, heading into the final quarter.

Nailon opened the fourth period with a jumper to make it 65-55.
But McGrady led Houston back into the game, hitting on three
jumpers and a driving shot high off the glass.

The teams played close through most of the first half, with the
Hornets opening up a 37-32 lead on Dickau's 3-pointer. Houston then
surged back ahead with a with a 9-0 run that included back-to-back
3s by McGrady. Brown's jumper in the final minute pulled the
Hornets to 41-39 at halftime.

Game notes
The game marked the 100th in New Orleans since the team's
move from Charlotte, N.C., in 2002. The attendance was 15,249. New
Orleans is 59-41 at home since the move. ... The game marked the
first trip back to New Orleans -- personally or professionally -- for
Wesley, who was traded to Houston on Dec. 27. His wife and children
still live here for now. He did not score until making a technical
free throw with 1:29 left in the first half and finished with six
points. The last time the Hornets had played Houston, Wesley was
New Orleans' leading scorer with 18 points. ... Baron Davis, listed
as questionable because of a bruised right ankle, did not dress for
a fifth straight game. ... Yao has 15 double-doubles this season.