McGrady scored 34 points with six assists Sunday and just about single-handedly carried the Houston Rockets to a 97-93 victory over the Magic.
It was vintage McGrady, who did pretty much the same thing for Orlando during the four seasons he played for the Magic before being traded to Houston in 2004. Though he hit only eight of 20 shots from the field, he got to the free throw line 18 times and made three of six 3-pointers as Magic defenders chased him all over the court.
“He’s so good that teams have to put two or three guys on him and when they go help, it gives guys like me, Rafer (Alston) and Shane (Battier) free looks behind the 3-point line,” Luther Head said. “He’s been doing it for us all season and tonight we were making those open shots.”
The Rockets went 14-for-27 from 3-point range for the game. Head, Alston and Battier were a combined 11-for-20 from behind the arc. Alston finished with 20 points and Head had 15, including a 3-pointer off an assist from McGrady that gave Houston a 93-88 lead with 1:36 left in the game. Houston had not scored a field goal in nearly 5 minutes before Head hit the clutch shot.
“That’s pretty much who we are,” McGrady said. “When teams double me, my job is to make the right play for our team. We did a great job of spacing the floor and getting open behind the 3-point line. It’s even sweeter when we’re knocking the shots down.”
The Magic, meanwhile, were not knocking many shots down. They were just 5-for-20 from the field in the fourth quarter and shot 39.2 percent for the game. Orlando was 27-for-41 from the foul line.
“It’s discouraging to miss 14 free throws in a close game,” Magic coach Brian Hill said. “We played hard, we played well defensively, we’ve just got to find a way to break through and obviously we have to make some free throws.”
The Rockets led 87-79 with 6:16 to go, but gave Orlando a chance to rally by not hitting from the field for 5 minutes.
Trevor Ariza’s two free throws with 1:57 to play cut it to 90-88, but Head ended the Rockets’ drought with a 3-pointer.
Hill responded with a three-point play with 47 seconds remaining, but McGrady’s late jumper helped Houston hold on.
The Rockets made eight 3-pointers in the first half, including back-to-back 3s from Alston and Head in the final 30 seconds, to take a 51-39 lead at halftime.
Houston limited the Magic to 36.4 percent shooting in the first half. Orlando’s starting five went 8-for-26 in the first half, many of the misses coming from inside the paint. Hill was the only player to reach double figures in the half, scoring 11.
McGrady was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws to give Houston its biggest lead of the game at 63-50 with 7:01 left in the third quarter.
Ariza returned for the first time since spraining his knee on Jan. 10. He had 14 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes for Orlando. … The win was the 35th this season for Houston, surpassing last year’s total of 34. … Houston had 17 assists and 18 turnovers.