Allen's efforts wasted in Sonics' loss

HOUSTON - Tracy McGrady and Ray Allen seemed to be going shot-for-shot at times Wednesday night.

In the end, T-Mac made the bucket that mattered most.

McGrady and Allen both scored 36 points, but McGrady sank a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left to clinch the Houston Rockets' 112-102 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics, who tied a franchise record with their 14th consecutive road loss.

When McGrady dribbled away from rookie Mickael Gelabale and swished his fourth 3-pointer, he glanced at the Sonics' bench and wryly grinned as Seattle coach Bob Hill called a timeout.

McGrady has been plagued by back problems the past three seasons, but he's healed now and enjoying basketball as much as he has in a while. It helps that the Rockets have won four in a row and eight of their last 11.

"I just think that me being healthy, I'm playing with a great deal of confidence," he said, "and my team is doing the same."

Allen, meanwhile, isn't getting much support. The Sonics have been ravaged by injuries this season, leaving him to carry the team almost every night.

It isn't working, especially on the road, where the Sonics are winless since Nov. 22.

"We needed someone else to make an open jump shot," Hill said. "We put so much pressure on him (Allen) and he is unbelievable the way he keeps hitting those shots. He's been phenomenal."

Rafer Alston had 15 points and nine assists and Dikembe Mutombo had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who've won 13 of 19 games since Yao Ming broke his right leg.

"We understand the task at hand," McGrady said. "We know that we don't have that big guy down in the post, who is giving us 25 (points) and 10 (rebounds) a night.

"That gives other guys opportunities to step up and take on that challenge and they've been doing a great job of it."

The Sonics shot 52 percent (45-of-87) and outrebounded Houston 41-34, but dropped to 2-23 when they trail after three quarters.

"It's small, little stuff that is hurting us," Allen said. "Our guys are learning on the job and it is a group effort. As a team, we have to do better."

McGrady hit his first three shots, including a 3-pointer, to keep the Rockets close as the Sonics made 18 of their first 24 shots. Allen scored twice early in the second quarter and Johan Petro hit a shot in the lane as Seattle retook the lead.

The Sonics then missed eight of their next 11 shots and the Rockets went on 10-2 run to take a 49-45 lead. McGrady drove for a layup and banked in a 3-pointer in the final 17 seconds of the half to lift Houston to a 59-51 lead.

McGrady had 21 points at the break, but Seattle shot 60.5 percent (23-of-38) in the first half against the Rockets' league-leading defense.

"They're a hard team for us to guard," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "The only thing we did right defensively was not foul."

Allen made his first four shots of the second half, all of them with Houston defenders in his face, to cut the Rockets' lead to two. McGrady answered with two jumpers from the wing and a pass to Mutombo for an easy dunk as Houston stretched the lead to 79-73.

Nick Collison scored three baskets late in the third quarter and Houston led only 85-82 heading to the fourth. Collison finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds.

McGrady skipped the fourth quarter of Houston's last two games, both blowout victories. He sat out the first six minutes of the final quarter on Wednesday and the Rockets led 93-88 when he returned. McGrady promptly found Luther Head open for a 3-pointer. Head hit three 3-pointers and scored 14.

"I knew I had to be a playmaker down the stretch and my guys did a great job of getting to open areas," McGrady said.

The Sonics started the final quarter 3-for-13. Allen missed three of his first five shots as the Rockets swarmed him with double- and triple-teams.

Allen drove for a reverse layup with 5:38 remaining to draw Seattle within six, but Chuck Hayes quickly scored at the other end.

Allen hit consecutive jumpers under heavy pressure, but Hayes scored again to keep the Rockets comfortably ahead before McGrady clinched the win.

Rockets 112, Sonics 102

Record: 17-29

Friday: Chicago at Seattle, 7:30 p.m.


Radio: 1030-AM, 770-AM