Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/7

Game 1: Tuesday, December 7th
Game 2: Wednesday, January 26th
Game 3: Friday, March 25th
Game 4: Friday, April 1st

Rockets 81

(42-27, 20-14 away)

Hornets 68

(15-53, 11-23 home)

    Coverage: FSSW

    7:00 PM ET, March 25, 2005

    Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 22 16 26 1781
    NO 17 21 18 1268

    Top Performers

    Hou: B. Sura 19 Pts, 4 Reb, 11 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    NO: L. Nailon 17 Pts, 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

    Sura steps up with 19 points and 11 assists

    NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The Houston Rockets lost Tracy McGrady, but weren't about to lose to the worst team in the Western Conference.

    Bob Sura had 19 points and 11 assists, and former Hornet David Wesley added 15 points to help the Rockets beat New Orleans 81-68 on Friday night.

    "Obviously somebody had to step up, take the shots, and I was able to get in the lane, get penetration and make some plays for myself and my teammates," Sura said. "The penetration really hurt them."

    McGrady, the Rockets' leading scorer (25.5 points per game), left early in the first quarter with a strained right hip, falling to the floor after colliding with Yao Ming while defending in the lane.

    "I tried to help him steal the ball and I think my knee or my hip, I don't know where, hit on his leg," Yao said.

    Rockets spokesman Nelson Luis said an X-ray taken of McGrady's hip did not show any damage. McGrady also is scheduled for an MRI and his status after the game was day-to-day.

    Yao went on to score 11 of his 12 points in the first half, then Sura, Wesley and Scott Padgett (10 points) carried the scoring load from there.

    "I'm just glad we came out of here with a win," Wesley said. "We have a good inside game. Yao didn't play particularly well tonight, but we can go inside, we've got good shooters on the floor. Even though we didn't shoot the ball particularly well, our defense is going to give us a chance to make some mistakes and hopefully all those other things will work out."

    Lee Nailon led New Orleans with 17 points but had little help. Dan Dickau, normally one of the Hornets' leading scorers, missed his first nine shots and finished with five points, all in the fourth quarter. J.R. Smith scored 11 points.

    With Yao getting his fourth foul early in the third period, he was limited to 24 minutes, leaving the Rockets to play half the game with neither Yao nor McGrady on the floor.

    "Having Tracy go down early, Yao struggling a little -- on the road to gut one out, it's a good feeling," Sura said.

    The Rockets have won nine of 11 games and three in a row, although their latest triumph was ugly. Houston shot only 36.6 percent, but New Orleans was even worse at 35.1 percent. Houston had a 54-46 rebounding edge, however, with Clarence Weatherspoon and Padgett each grabbing 11.

    "We settled for bad shots ... We didn't move the ball well enough, we didn't set good screens," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We did enough defensively to win the game. Offensively, when you start trying to go on your own instead of trying to do the things the team has been talking about, we make it hard on ourselves."

    The Rockets began to pull away late in the third quarter when Padgett hit a jumper, then Wesley followed with a pair of free throws. Dikembe Mutombo then finished a pick-and-roll with Sura by driving straight down the lane for a dunk that gave Houston a 64-56 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

    Houston carried the momentum from there, helped by the Hornets hitting only one of their first 11 field goals of the final period. A driving scoop by Sura, two inside baskets by Padgett and Jon Barry's fast-break layup gave a the Rockets a 9-0 run and a 73-58 lead with 7:10 to go. New Orleans only briefly pulled within single digits after that.

    "We had a good first half and not a good second half," Dickau said. "It is getting redundant and it is not fun."

    Despite losing McGrady before he had even scored a point, the Rockets surged to a 29-19 lead behind nine early points from Yao and an early offensive rebounding display that led to 16 second-chance points.

    Then Houston began shooting poorly, finishing only 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) for the second quarter. New Orleans used a 13-3 run to tie the game at 32 on Nailon's free throws.

    Chris Andersen, back from an elbow infection that kept him out six games, had seven points and six rebounds in the first half. He gave the Hornets a 37-36 lead when put back Dickau's miss. But the Hornets also shot poorly overall in the first half (35.1 percent), and the game was tied at 38 at halftime.

    Game notes

    P.J. Brown, who had 10 rebounds, became the Hornets' career defensive rebound leader. He has 2,303, passing Larry Johnson, who had 2,293. ... Rockets are 14-0 when holding opponents to 80 points or fewer. ... New Orleans is 0-14 in its own division, the Southwest. If it loses Sunday at Memphis and April 1 at Houston, New Orleans will become the first NBA team to lose all of its divisional games in a season.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 81 68
    FGM-FGA 30-82 (.366) 27-77 (.351)
    3PM-3PA 3-20 (.150) 0-10 (.000)
    FTM-FTA 18-22 (.818) 14-23 (.609)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 14-54 12-46
    Assists 17 19
    Turnovers 12 16
    Steals 4 5
    Blocks 5 6
    Fast Break Points 9 10
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (1/0) 23 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 15 2

    Top Performers

    New Orleans
    Bob Sura Sura
    Points: 19
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 11
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 1
    Lee Nailon Nailon
    Points: 17
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0