HOUSTON (AP)—Tracy McGrady is ready to rescind his hold on the NBA scoring title. He’s discovered passing can be pretty fun, too.
McGrady, who led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons while with Orlando, is five points off his 28-point average from last year. But he also is averaging 5.2 assists a game, more than one per game better than his career average.
“I’ve had my time leading the league in scoring,” McGrady said with a smile. “I think the best play I have when they’re double-teaming me is to make it easy on my team and find my guys on the perimeter. I get a kick out of that.”
Coach Jeff Van Gundy does too.
“If they’re committing to him like they have been recently, you know he’s a very willing passer,” Van Gundy said. “You couldn’t play with a more unselfish player.
“But if they’re going to get in single coverage on him, I don’t care how many times he shoots the ball.”
Jackson credited much of his scoring to McGrady and Yao Ming, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds as Houston won for the seventh time in 10 games. It was Yao’s third straight double-double and team-high 11th of the season.
“A lot of (my scoring) came from Yao and Tracy being aggressive early,” Jackson said. “When those guys are double-teamed, if we get to our spots, we’ll have open shots.”
Corey Maggette scored 23 points to lead the Clippers, who lost their eighth straight to the Rockets. Los Angeles has not defeated Houston since Dec. 14, 2002.
“Houston is a good team with Yao and T-Mac and their role players,” Maggette said. “They should have a better record. They are searching for their chemistry and when they get it, they’ll be a tough team to beat.”
Coach Mike Dunleavy lamented his team losing the rebounding battle 39-33 and having six shots blocked, three by McGrady.
“We struggled with their size all game,” Dunleavy said. “Yao got too deep on us and they killed us on the boards. Our big guys just didn’t board at all. We let them control us in that regard.”
Houston used a 12-0 run to take command in the first quarter. Yao had 11 points during the period, including seven free throws, to help the Rockets take a 31-20 lead.
The Rockets weren’t done. They went on a 11-0 second-quarter run to up their lead to 48-33. Yao had 17 at the half and Houston led 52-40.
Los Angeles scored the first nine points of the third quarter to close the margin to 52-49. But consecutive 3s by Jackson pushed Houston’s lead back to nine.
Jon Barry, who was acquired in a trade with Atlanta last Thursday, scored his first points as a Rocket when he hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to push Houston’s lead to 76-59.
The Rockets activated guard Reece Gaines and placed guard Charlie Ward on the injured list with a right knee contusion. … G Marko Jaric was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game with a right foot sprain.