Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Rockets 97, Celtics 94


— With Tracy McGrady nursing a tight back, Jon Barry supplied the clutch shooting in the fourth quarter for the Houston Rockets.

Barry scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth to complement 23 points from Yao Ming, leading Houston to a 97-94 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night.

Houston blew a 16-point lead but rallied behind Barry, who scored 11 points in the first 2:57 of the fourth, to snap a two-game skid and move back to .500 on the road.

With Boston focused on stopping Yao and McGrady in crunch time, Barry had some open looks and made the most of them. He opened the fourth with a 20-foot jumper, then knocked down three 3-pointers in the next two minutes to put the Rockets ahead 78-68 with 9:03 left.

Barry, who went scoreless Sunday night in Miami, added a finger roll with 2:07 left that Boston coach Doc Rivers called the most important basket of the game.

"You certainly never think you're going to come down and do something like that. It's rare I take five shots in a row. Fortunately, I knocked a couple down. And we needed it," Barry said.

McGrady scored 16 points, but he didn't attempt a field goal in the fourth quarter due in part to back trouble he blamed on the weather.

"This cold weather has not been good to me as far as taking it easy on my back. My back was pretty tight tonight," McGrady said.

With the Celtics down 93-92, Ricky Davis missed a shot for the first time in the fourth quarter. Houston grabbed the rebound, forcing Boston to foul McGrady, who hit both free throws to put the Rockets ahead 95-92 with 17.8 seconds left.

Paul Pierce missed a 3-pointer on Boston's ensuing possession, and Rod Strickland ended up with the ball after a scramble. Strickland made two free throws to put Houston up 97-92 with 7.5 seconds left, sealing the win.

Davis, who scored 17 in the final quarter, hit a jumper with 1:13 left to even the score at 90, then hit another basket with 44 seconds remaining to tie it at 92. Davis went 7-of-8 from the field in the fourth.

"Ricky's hot hand pretty much carried us in the fourth quarter," Pierce said. "But the key to this game was our inability to get stops when we needed them."

Boston trailed 47-31 late in the second quarter, then held Yao scoreless during a 32-10 run to go ahead 63-57 late in the third.

Davis led Boston with 24 points, and Pierce added 22.

The Rockets have won four straight in Boston.

"In the second half we stayed mentally strong when they put such a push on us at the start of the third," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "It was certainly a good one to grind out."

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