PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Having seen the best the Atlantic Division has to offer in a three-day stretch, Tracy McGrady was left unimpressed.
McGrady made five 3-pointers and had 34 points and nine assists for the Rockets, who emerged from their games against Boston and Philadelphia with a pair of victories.
“You know, the East is crazy. You’ve got teams like five games under .500 and they’re leading their division. That’s crazy,” McGrady said. “The East, I played there, and it is a crazy conference. The West, you’re under .500 like that and you have no chance, no chance absolutely, of getting to the playoffs.”
McGrady was a consistent threat on offense throughout each of the four quarters, while Iverson—leading the NBA with an average of 29.0 points—had 15 points of his 28 points in the first quarter but just two points in the second quarter and five in the third.
Those middle two quarters were when the Rockets took control, opening a lead as large as 20 points. Philadelphia never made a run in the second half in having its four-game home winning streak snapped.
Combined with Boston’s victory over New Jersey, the 76ers fell a half-game behind the Celtics in the division standings.
“We have what we have,” Sixers coach Jim O’Brien said. “There are some teams that are just flat-out better than we are. Tonight, these guys were just flat-out better than we were.”
The Rockets shot 54 percent overall and 56 percent from 3-point range while producing their second-highest point total of the season, surpassed only by the 124 they scored against Dallas on Jan. 12.
“It was unbelievable passing,” Barry said. “Thirty-five assists on 41 baskets is a tremendous number.”
Iverson had 10 assists, and Samuel Dalembert had 16 points for the Sixers.
In the game’s first 12 minutes, it appeared as though Iverson and McGrady would be competing in a scoring duel for the rest of the evening. Iverson had 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, while McGrady went 2-for-3 from 3-point range and had 13 points.
From that point on, however, only McGrady kept up the pace.
He added eight points in the second quarter as the Rockets outscored the Sixers by 10 points to open a 63-55 halftime lead, and he opened the second half with a 3-pointer. McGrady also scored Houston’s final four points of the period, ending the quarter with 30 points as Houston led 88-71.
“He’s 6-8 and he can elevate over everyone and make incredible shots. Everyone needs someone like him,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
The Rockets eventually led by as many as 25 in the fourth quarter.
Sixers F Kyle Korver went 0-for-3 from 3-point range, ending his streak of 22 games with at least one 3. … The Rockets have reached 100 points 10 times in their last 25 games after doing it only twice in their first 24 games. … Houston swept the season series. … Houston G Rod Strickland missed his only shot, dropping his shooting percentage to .091 (2-for-22).