In 1994, coach Rudy Tomjanovich called it "balls".
I believe most publications bleeped it out back then, but Rudy T's description of the Houston pro team ran true Monday night in Dallas, as this Rocket team showed they have big, brass balls.
Tracy McGrady stuck a dagger in the heart of Dallas, nailing a foot-on-the-line 21-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds left to give the Rockets a 113-111 win over the Mavericks, taking a 2-0 series edge in their opening round best-of-seven.
Even now, at 2:30am in the morning, I'm floored by how the Rockets achieved this win. When Michael Finley's jumper clanged at the buzzer and Dallas owner Mark Cuban looked as if the Rockets had just burned his mansion down, I just stood motionless, jaw on the floor, asking myself: How?
How in the world did they do that?
McGrady, Yao Ming, Mike James, Bob Sura, Jon Barry, Ryan Bowen ... I must admit that I have not worn a cap all day, but my hat is off to each and every one of you.
Twice in the fourth quarter it seemed the Rockets were dead and done. Series tied 1-1, we stole one, good job, blah-blah-blah and now we go back and try to keep homecourt. The Mavs seemed to hit everything they threw up (50% from the floor), particularly from downtown (67% from three), and when Houston cut an 8-point deficit to one midway through the fourth and had the ball with a chance to take the lead, Dallas quickly seized momentum back and built the lead back to 7 with over 5 minutes to go.
Well... good try. No shame in losing this one.
The Rockets, however, refused to die.
After the self-proclaimed conference's best center Erick Dampier put Dallas up 7 with a slam, McGrady hit a long jumper. Barry then made a tough, driving layup and after Mike James picked a Josh Howard pass and went the length of the floor for a deuce, the Rockets were within a pair.
That's when Sura made his presence known.
Bobby has said before he's not paid to make those big shots late, so the man is due a raise. He hit a long triple to bring Houston within 1 with 3:48 to go, and at the 2:15 mark he did it again, giving Houston a 109-107 lead and forcing the Mavs to call a timeout.
From there, the amazing games of Yao and T-Mac sealed it. After Jason Terry tied it and McGrady missed a jumper, Mike James again stole the ball, setting up McGrady who found a cutting Yao for the slam to make it 111-109, Rockets.
With just over 10 seconds to go, Dirk Nowitzki tied it with a 15-foot jumper, setting up McGrady's heroics.
The Rockets' star got a beautiful screen from Yao, freeing himself for the 21-footer that sailed right through and absolutely flattened the record Dallas crowd.
While McGrady's shot was amazing, the Rockets wouldn't have been in the position if not for Yao.
Right away the Mavs knew they were not seeing the same Yao. The Rockets big man, who shot just 40% in the regular season against Dallas and did little in Game 1, exploded early. He scored 17 points in the first quarter alone and did not miss a single shot in the period. He had 23 by half en route to 33 points on 13-14 shooting for the game. I simply can't say enough great things about his play tonight.
Magic Johnson said on TNT at halftime that if Yao and McGrady play like this, they're going to the NBA Finals.
Who can argue with him? The supporting cast knows well their roles and doesn't play selfishly, while the stars are stepping up their games. Can Yao do it again in Game 3? That's the big question.
But with T-Mac, there have not been any questions. It's early, but McGrady is starting to put his name in the book of Rocket lore. He finished 10-19 from the floor for 28 points, 10 assists, 8 boards and 3 steals. He had a dunk on Shawn Bradley in the first quarter that your grandkids' grandkids will be seeing on highlight reels -- it was that sick.
But it was his fire and clutch play that most will remember, sealed by the calm sinking of the game-winner. As he plays like this, I'm reminded of Magic GM John Weisbrod saying point blank after he dealt away McGrady that Tracy was not his kind of player.
Johnny, we formally thank you that he wasn't.