MILWAUKEE (AP)—Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy has no idea why Tracy McGrady is so tough on the road.
McGrady scored 41 points, including 14 straight in the fourth quarter, to lead the Rockets to a 97-80 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.
He is averaging 30.7 points in 18 road games—including 38.0 in the last seven—and 19.1 points in nine at home.
“You can’t explain it,” Van Gundy said after his team improved to 11-13 away from Houston. “He’s the best road player in the league.”
The Bucks trailed 76-75 after Andrew Bogut’s basket with 10:58 left in the fourth quarter when McGrady went on his personal run.
McGrady hit a pair of 3-pointers, a driving 10-footer, a turnaround fadeaway and two jump shots to give the Rockets a 90-75 lead with 5:21 left.
“I’m just in a nice rhythm right now,” McGrady said. “I’m playing with a great deal of confidence.”
Houston stretched the run to 19 straight points after a free throw by Lonny Baxter and two jumpers by, who else, McGrady. He was pulled with 1:25 left, and the Bucks ended the 9-minute drought with a free throw by Jermaine Jackson.
Milwaukee missed 17 consecutive shots.
“You can deal with some of the jump shots he made, he’s been making them all season,” Bucks guard Mo Williams said. “But he kept making daggers, a dagger here and a dagger there. At the same time, we were digging ourselves in a hole by not making shots.”
In one sequence, McGrady, who was 17-of-32 from the field, drove and dished to David Wesley, who missed a 3, but got his own rebound. After Rafer Alston missed another long 3-pointer, Chuck Hayes snagged the rebound and kicked it out to McGrady, who made a 3.
“That’s what Houston wanted to do—keep it close, get to the fourth quarter and have McGrady take over,” Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. “Offensively, it’s tough when the ball doesn’t go in.”
McGrady finished the fourth quarter with 18 points, compared to just nine for the Bucks, one more than its franchise record for fewest in a quarter.
“When you score that little in a fourth quarter, it’s usually part defense and part just missing some shots,” Van Gundy said of the Rockets’ defensive effort.
McGrady had only 14 points in the first half—limited by a pesky Bobby Simmons, who forced him into turnovers and missed shots.
“All you can do is contest him,” Simmons said. “If you contest his shots, then hopefully he’ll miss them.”
But McGrady, who had scored 35 and 43 in his previous two games—both on the road—since missing five with severe back spasms, began to take control at the start of the third quarter.
“It feels good to be healthy,” McGrady said. “It’s just a great feeling from where I started out at the beginning of the year with my back injury.”
He and Wesley, who finished with 17 points, combined for 14 of the Rockets first 19 points to start the second half as Houston built a 65-58 lead.
Michael Redd, who finished with 21 points, tied the score at 67-all while Houston went more than 3 minutes without a basket, but the Bucks never took the lead down the stretch.
Simmons had 13 at the half, but only three the rest of the game.
Houston, last in the Western Conference, won two of three on its three-game road trip after a double-overtime victory against Chicago and a two-point loss to Detroit.
Houston is 14-13 with McGrady in the lineup and 0-13 without. … McGrady scored 42 points the last time the Rockets played the Bucks. … Milwaukee is 1-10 when scoring 89 or less. … After a career-high 22 rebounds on Saturday in a victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, Jamaal Magloire grabbed nine rebounds against the Rockets.