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Yao, McGrady lead Rockets past Clippers

HOUSTON (AP) -- Tracy McGrady has put whatever personal problems
he had behind him.

And it shows.

McGrady, who averaged just 15 points in his last three games,
followed up his 36-point performance in the All-Star game with 26
points to help the Houston Rockets to a 106-102 win over the Los
Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

As for what was bothering him, he still wouldn't say. But
insists it's in the past.

"That's over with," he said. "It's time to move on. We're not
even mentioning that. I'm not going to talk about it."

His emotional improvement along with Yao Ming's best outing
since missing 21 games after toe surgery was enough to hold off the
pesky Clippers. Yao scored 29 points and had 15 rebounds.

Houston is 17-8 with both Yao and McGrady in the lineup.

"Yao has been playing out of his mind lately," McGrady said.
"Since the guy's been back, he's been extremely aggressive. He's
playing with a great deal of confidence."

Houston led by as many as 16, but let the Clippers chip away at
the lead and make it a close game for much of the second half.

The Rockets led 103-92 with less than three minutes remaining,
but the Clippers scored seven straight points, led by a 3-pointer
by Cuttino Mobley to cut the lead to four.

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy wasn't too happy with Houston's
late game letdown.

"Our basketball IQ at the end of the game, up 11, could have
been a lot better," he said.

Juwan Howard hit two free throws with 20.7 seconds left to
extend the lead, but Mobley struck again with another 3 to make it
105-102.

Houston, which struggled early this season, has come on as of
late to win eight of its last 10 games.

The loss extends the Clippers' season-high losing streak to five
games and they have lost 11 of their last 12 against Houston.

"Our season goes up and down and we are going to find a way to
get it back," Clippers guard Sam Cassell said. "We don't have a
monkey on our back. We have a gorilla."

Brand led Los Angeles with 32 points and 12 rebounds for his
30th double-double of the season. Brand is the only player in the
NBA in the top-10 in both scoring and rebounding this season.

Mobley finished with 30 points and five 3-pointers.

McGrady stole a rebound from the Clippers then knocked it back
in-bounds to a wide-open Yao who hit the easy shot to open the
second half.

That was the best moment of the third for the Rockets. From
there the Clippers went on 17-8 run to get back in the game and cut
the lead to 69-62.

Hot shooting by Mobley and Cassell and sloppy play by the
Rockets allowed the Clippers to cut a 14-point halftime lead to
80-76 at the end of three.

Cassell and Mobley, both former Rockets, combined for 17 points
in the third quarter. Los Angeles got within three points two
times, with one coming when Mobley hit two quick 3s to make it
71-68.

Yao hit a layup and McGrady added two straight 3s of his own to
help the Rockets pull ahead 79-70.

But Cassell wouldn't go away, taking advantage of two turnovers
by the Rockets, to score four more points in the third.

Rafer Alston, who had nine points and 11 assists for Houston,
said the team has to learn to maintain its intensity throughout
games.

"With a good team like that, you have to be ready for that kind
of run," he said. "And understand that they're going to come out
of the locker room with a certain kind of fire."

David Wesley added 21 points for the Rockets and made four
3-pointers.

The Clippers had a 31-30 lead early in the second quarter before
Houston went on a 14-4 run to go ahead 44-35.

A quick seven points by McGrady just before halftime helped
extend the lead to 59-45 after two.
^Notes:@ Clippers rookie Daniel Ewing, who played at Willowridge
high school in the Houston suburb of Missouri City, had his jersey
retired before the game. "For my high school to retire my jersey
is a very big honor for me," he said. ...Vin Baker, who signed
with the Clippers on Monday, has yet to play for the team after
being inactive for the last two games. ... Wednesday was "Hardwood
Classics Night" which featured both teams in throwback uniforms.
The Clippers wore orange, black and white uniforms from their days
as the Buffalo Braves, which they were from 1970-78. ... The
Rockets, who have struggled at home this season, play five of their
next six games at the Toyota Center.