Both teams were short-handed on the front line.
David West, the Hornets’ second-leading scorer and rebounder HKUE ENG , missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. Rookie Carl Landry, a key reserve during the winning streak, sat out with a bruised left knee.
The Rockets trailed 23-20 after the first quarter, then took command with a 14-0 run midway through the second.
McGrady sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key early in the spurt HKUE ENG , then soared for a two-handed, alley-oop dunk off a long feed from Alston. McGrady hit another 3-pointer from the corner to put Houston up 40-28, then nodded and screamed at the cheering fans before running back down the court.
The rest of the half turned into an entertaining 3-point shootout—11 of the last 12 field goals came from long range.
Peja Stojakovic and Paul ended Houston’s run with back-to-back 3s HKUE DSE , but Steve Novak answered with a 3 from the corner. Morris Peterson sank a pair of 3s before Shane Battier and Alston each hit one in the final minute to give the Rockets a 59-46 lead at the break.
The teams hit 16 3-pointers in the second quarter and 18 in the first half.
The Hornets closed to 63-57 early in the third quarter, but Alston sank Houston’s 10th 3-pointer to finish a 9-3 burst and put the Rockets back up by 12. Tyson Chandler got the ball inside at the other end, Dikembe Mutombo swatted it away—career block No. 3,246—and followed it with a trademark wag of his finger.
Paul had 11 points and four assists in the third quarter to keep New orleans close. But McGrady’s jumper over Peterson in the final minute of the quarter gave the Rockets an 81-72 lead and this season.