HOUSTON (AP)—Tracy McGrady used the third quarter against Portland on Friday night to show why he’ll be a starter in the All-Star Game for the sixth time in his career.
McGrady scored 17 of his 28 points in the decisive quarter and the Houston Rockets beat the misfiring Trail Blazers 99-69.
McGrady, named to his seventh All-Star Game on Thursday, had 11 points at halftime, then hit 7 of 10 shots after the break to help the Rockets pull away for their second straight victory after three consecutive losses.
“I had it rolling,” McGrady said, “and there was nothing they could do about that.”
Zach Randolph scored 13 points and was the lone double-figure scorer for the Blazers, who shot a season low 36 percent (26-of-72) from the field and were outrebounded 47-32. Portland has lost four straight road games and six of its last seven.
The Blazers mustered only 14 points in the third quarter.
“McGrady did what All-Stars seem to do,” said Portland coach Nate McMillan. “We were in his face, but he still kept hitting them. That really just took the wind out of us.”
Shane Battier added 15 and Dikembe Mutombo grabbed 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who improved to 12-0 when they hold an opponent under 80 points. Houston is 4-0 this season when it holds an opponent under 70.
“When we rebound and play that type of defense, that’s when we’re at our best,” McGrady said. “I put us in the class with the best teams in this league.”
The Rockets gave up 100 points in four consecutive games last week and dipped to second in the league in scoring defense, behind San Antonio. They beat the Spurs 90-85 on Wednesday before shutting down the Blazers on Friday.
“It’s good to get back to playing that kind of defense,” said Battier, who had two steals. “We feel that, when we’re in the flow defensively, we can get stops when necessary.”
The Rockets led 36-34 after an ugly first half.
McGrady hit his first three shots, two of them 3-pointers, as the Rockets opened the game with a 10-2 run. Randolph scored twice and hit two free throws during Portland’s answering 14-4 burst.
Houston made six of its first seven shots, then missed five in a row and went 6 minutes without scoring. The Blazers led 20-19 after the opening quarter, despite missing 13 of 19 shots.
Both teams’ struggles continued in the second quarter—the Rockets missed eight of their first nine shots and the Blazers missed four of their first six.
Wells, who played his first 5 1/2 seasons in Portland, scored four straight close-range baskets to help the Rockets retake the lead. He had 12 points at the break. Wells has played his way back into the rotation after injuries and an early season rift with coach Jeff Van Gundy.
And then McGrady took over.
He hit his first five shots of the second half, most of them smooth turnarounds over Ime Udoka. The last of the five gave the Rockets a 51-44 lead and prompted a timeout from Portland coach Nate McMillan.
“I wanted to just come out in the third quarter and lead by example,” McGrady said. “And the team followed.”
Rookie Brandon Roy guarded McGrady after that, but Battier immediately swished a 3-pointer and Hayes scored inside to give Houston its biggest lead to that point.
McGrady dunked an alley-oop from Rafer Alston late in the third quarter, while the Blazers continued to miss.
The Rockets finished the quarter with a 24-4 run after Portland missed eight of its last 10 shots.
McGrady sat out the final quarter as Houston’s defense preserved the big lead. He also had five assists, four rebounds and a steal and even correctly guessed what Van Gundy said about him after the game.
“Let me guess,” McGrady said with a knowing smile. “Jeff said, ‘When he’s playing with a lot of energy, when he’s going, we’re going.’ I knew it. I’ve been around Jeff too long.”
The Rockets outrebounded an opponent by double-digits for the 12th time this season. … The Blazers’ point total was a season low and their margin of defeat was a season high. … Friday’s game is the first of five straight home games for the Rockets, their longest homestand of the season.