HOUSTON (AP)—The Houston Rockets brought back the old uniforms and gave their absent coach a milestone victory.
Tomjanovich is on a leave of absence while undergoing treatment for bladder cancer. Assistant coach Larry Smith is directing the team for Tomjanovich, whose career record now is 500-495.
“Rudy’s done a lot for this team, and he deserves it,” Smith said.
Wearing replicas of the red uniforms from the 1993-94 season, when they won the first of two straight NBA championships, the Rockets moved within a half-game of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Suns lost 115-113 to the Lakers in overtime.
“We had a different attitude, just because of the jerseys,” Eddie Griffin said. “We felt different walking out there with them on. You could just tell we had a different attitude. We didn’t want to get upset in our jerseys. We just wish we could keep them.”
Orlando lost its fourth in a row despite 28 points for Tracy McGrady. He scored 24 in the first half and sat out the fourth quarter.
“They just outplayed us,” Magic coach Doc Rivers said. “They acted like they’re trying to make the playoffs, and we played like we’re already in. That disturbs me, because if we keep fooling around, we won’t make it.”
Orlando is seventh in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee.
The Rockets have a 14-2 record when both Mobley and Francis score in double figures. Eddie Griffin and James Posey each scored 14 points for the Rockets.
After a good start in the first quarter, the Rockets had to fight off McGrady to take their 58-48 halftime lead. McGrady played despite a rib injury.
“I felt pretty good,” McGrady said. “I had fresh legs, I had some pain in my ribs, but it didn’t bother me. At times it affected my shot, but I just played through it.”
Orlando never led in the first half, although McGrady cut Houston’s lead to 41-40 with 6:l6 left in the half. Houston outscored Orlando 17-8 the rest of the quarter.
McGrady cooled off in the third quarter, missing his first four shots, and the Rockets boosted their lead to 85-65 at the end of the quarter, led by Yao Ming and Francis with eight points each in the period.
The Rockets scored the game’s first 11 points and led 15-4 with 8:42 to go in the first quarter. McGrady kept the Magic in the game with 12 points in the period.
Orlando clearly wasn’t pleased with its play.
“We got down big in the third quarter,” Pat Garrity said. “When that happens, you have to make a choice of whether to fight or not. The choice we made tonight was to pack it up and go home. That’s disappointing.”
Rivers gave McGrady a break in the fourth quarter.
“Tracy looked really good tonight, but there was not enough effort from the team, and I didn’t want to waste him,” Rivers added. “It’s disappointing, because we’re young, and tonight we acted like it was time to go home. This isthe first night in years I thought we caved in.”
Yao and Orlando’s Drew Gooden are the only rookies who have averaged 10 points and five rebounds every month this season. … Among the coaches who have spent their entire careers with one team, Tomjanovich is second to GoldenState’s Al Attles, who has 557 victories.