12:00 PM ET, February 5, 2006
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
But even after a tough 93-89 win over the struggling New York Knicks on Sunday, the Rockets know they still need to improve.
McGrady scored 23 points and David Wesley added 19, including several key free throws late, as Houston won its third straight game.
"We are doing well," Yao said. "But we must do more. We are always looking forward."
Yao, in his fourth game back since missing 21 after toe surgery, looked to have shaken off any lingering effects of the injury with a strong start and scored 15 points. Houston's record is 12-6 when he and McGrady play. McGrady had missed five games with back spasms.
With both its stars healthy, Houston has its longest winning streak since it captured five in a row from Dec. 6-15.
"It's different with both those guys around," Wesley said. "It makes it easier on the rest of us.
"We did enough, but were not where we want to be."
The Knicks had a chance to tie with 6.9 seconds left, but a 3-point attempt by Jalen Rose was partially blocked by Stromile Swift and fell short. Wesley, who made four free throws in the last 23 seconds, hit his final one with 3 seconds remaining to ensure the victory.
"I wanted that one," Rose said. "I wanted that one very bad and I'd have liked to see what had happened had he not blocked my shot."
Rose scored 16 points and had 11 assists in his debut with the Knicks after being traded from Toronto on Friday, and received a warm reception from the crowd. Rose and a first-round draft pick went to the Knicks for Antonio Davis. Rose started to make it the 29th different starting lineup the Knicks have used this season.
Knicks scoring leader Stephon Marbury missed his second straight game with an injured left shoulder. He first injured his shoulder in a loss to Minnesota on Jan. 16 and missed three games with the injury last month.
This is the fourth time this season the Knicks have had a losing streak of five games or longer. The only good news Sunday was that they kept the score close after losing their last four by an average of 20 points, including a 130-97 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
"I don't get caught up with wins and losses," Knicks coach Larry Brown said. "I get caught up with guys trying to do the right thing, respecting their teammates, and playing with effort. It's disappointing to lose and not be rewarded for that as a team. But from my perspective it's a big step forward."
McGrady was frustrated that the Rockets allowed the Knicks to threaten late, after leading by seven with under a minute to go.
"We kind of let our guard down a little bit," he said. "We could have put them away early but we made some key mistakes on the defensive end. When we executed on both ends, there was no question that we were the better team."
McGrady scored just four points in the first half, but struck in the third quarter. The Rockets were down 49-48 before McGrady and Wesley keyed a 16-3 run to take a 64-52 lead midway through the quarter.
But the Knicks, led by Channing Frye, scored nine straight points to cut the lead to 66-63. McGrady stretched Houston's lead back to six with a 3-pointer, but Rose answered with a 3 as the quarter ended.
Yao scored eight of the Rockets' first 10 points and had two big blocks early in the first quarter. He had all of his 15 points by halftime.
"There's going to be some bumps in the road certainly," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "You don't sit out that long in this competitive of a league and make it back the you were playing before. You saw tonight he started out great and then he couldn't make (shots)."
Houston led by as many as nine in the second quarter before the Knicks rallied to cut the lead to 45-42 by halftime.
New York's Jerome James scored six points after missing the last five games with a strained neck. ... Knicks fixture Spike Lee appeared to have another sport on his mind on Super Bowl Sunday as he wore a jersey of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward at the game. ... Houston's Rafer Alston scored five points and had seven assists in a return to his hometown.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||32-76 (.421)||31-73 (.425)|
|3PM-3PA||3-12 (.250)||9-19 (.474)|
|FTM-FTA||26-35 (.743)||18-22 (.818)|
|Fast Break Points||12||4|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||30 (1/0)|