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Houston wins fourth in a row

HOUSTON (AP) -- With the Houston Rockets leading by two points
and about a minute to play, Tracy McGrady had the ball and two
defenders blocking his path to the basket.

For the two-time defending NBA scoring leader, that's normally
an invitation to pull up for a jumper.

But McGrady found Yao Ming rolling to the basket for a key
three-point play to lead Houston to its fourth straight win
Wednesday night, 100-92 over Memphis to deny the Grizzlies a chance
to clinch a playoff spot.

"When a team double-teams me, my job is to go out and make the
right play," said McGrady, who finished with 23 points, eight
rebounds and eight assists. "When they do that, they leave
somebody open. I was fortunate enough to hit them, and they knocked
down the shots.

"When it's rolling like that, I don't have to score."

Yao had 28 points and nine rebounds, Mike James came off the
bench for 15 points, including a huge 3 with 41 seconds to go, and
the Rockets held off a furious second-half rally by the Grizzlies.

Mike Miller led Memphis with a career-high 37 points on
15-for-24 shooting but he missed his final two attempts in the
Grizzlies' last ditch effort to overcome a 16-point deficit. Pau
Gasol added 20 points and eight rebounds for Memphis.

"It doesn't mean nothing because we still need to get one
win," Miller said. "The bottom line was we needed to make a run.
My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball and I tried to
make something happen."

The Grizzlies have lost the first two of a four-game road trip,
keeping Minnesota alive in the battle for the eighth and final
playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Memphis leads Minnesota by three games with four remaining and
needs one victory or a loss by the Timberwolves to secure another
trip to the postseason. The Grizzlies finish the road swing at
Denver and San Antonio.

The Rockets have already clinched their second straight trip to
the playoffs after failing to qualify from 2000-03, but find
themselves in a tight battle for positioning with three games left.

Houston (48-31), which earned its playoff berth with a victory
over Phoenix on Saturday, is in sixth place in the West and moved
within one-half game of Sacramento (48-30). The Rockets hold a
half-game lead over seventh-place Denver (47-31).

"Houston has done a terrific job," Memphis coach Mike Fratello
said. "They have been hit with a lot of obstacles ... and the
whole team should be commended for the job they have done all
year."

In a showdown of two of the leagues' top four defenses, the
Rockets and Grizzlies came up with some impressive offensive spurts
to keep the game interesting until the final few minutes.

Miller scored 13 points, including four 3-pointers, in the final
5:40 of the third quarter, helping Memphis trim the Rockets' lead
from 16 points to three going into the final period.

"We let Mike carry us and he single-handedly took over the game
in the third quarter," Grizzlies forward Shane Battier said.
"When a guy is that hot you just try to screen for him and give
him some good looks. To see him go off like that was really nice."

Miller, who came in averaging 21.3 points on 58 percent shooting
in the previous three games, was nearly unguardable down the
stretch against Houston.

He hit a 3 with 4:07 left to cut lead to 83-82, scored another
basket to keep the Grizzlies within a point and made a driving dunk
with 41 seconds left to keep Memphis within striking distance --
93-90 -- as the Rockets threatened to pull away.

"Mike Miller obviously had a fantastic game," Fratello said.
"I'd call it great rather than just a nice game."

But McGrady, sixth in the NBA at 25.8 points a game, made all
the big plays in the final minutes with -- all of things -- his
passes.

He dished to Yao on a pick-and-roll for the three-point play,
then found James wide open for a 3 to give the Rockets a six-point
lead. Miller finally missed on the next possession and Houston's
Jon Barry was sent to the free throw line to ice the game.

"That's where Tracy's greatness lies," Rockets coach Jeff Van
Gundy said. "There are a lot of guys who can score and there are a
lot of guys who can pass. There are very few who can do both and
who are willing to do both."

Game notes
Houston guard Bob Sura had 11 points, seven rebounds and
six assists. ... McGrady is 45 points from becoming the fourth
player in Rockets history to score 2,000 points in a season. The
others were Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone and Elvin Hayes. ...
Rockets forward Vin Baker didn't dress for the game because of
flu-like symptoms. He has played only 13 minutes since being traded
to Houston from the New York Knicks on Feb. 24.