The Rockets may have added more firepower for 2007-08, but it still all comes down to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
Options 1a and 1aa stepped up big for the Rockets in crunch time as Houston came from down 9 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Bobcats 85-82 in Charlotte Sunday night.
Yao has been Bruce Banner at times in games this year, but in this one he unleashed the Incredible Hulk. It may read like a misprint, but the big fella hit 13-15 shots. To put that in perspective, Rafer Alston would need to attempt about 30-40 more shots to make that many.
And he stepped up in the clutch. With the Rockets trailing by one, Yao grabbed an offensive board off a Rafer missed three and got fouled, calmly sinking both free throws. He finished with 34 points, 8 boards, 4 assists and 3 blocks.
Yeah, he still had turnover problems, which was a big reason he only got off 15 shots, but he was a beast in this one.
Tracy McGrady wasn't to be outdone though -- T-Mac made big play after big play down the stretch.
In the final 5 and a half minutes of the game, McGrady scored 12 points and hit all 4 shots that he took. One of his baskets was a sick reverse layin over his head that is far from garden variety and is sure to make the highlight reels. The Rockets started that stretch down 7 and finished it up 3.
T-Mac also made the defensive stop that sealed the deal. With the Rockets leading 83-82, T-Mac shadowed Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace, resulting in an offensive foul with just 3 ticks left.
After the game, Wallace dished out some heavy, heavy praise for the Rockets dynamic duo.
"I don't think there's a better 1-2 combination. They might be the best combination since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen," said Wallace, who apparently wasn't following the NBA during that whole Kobe-Shaq thing.
Nonetheless, the stars were brilliant, and that's the good news. The bad is the Rockets needed every drop of sweat those guys could produce to beat the Bobcats because no one other Rocket could put the ball through the hoop. The rest of the cast shot a feeble 7-32 from the field.
But a 6-1 record? Can't complain about that. It may not have been a top-caliber opponent, but the Rockets could have easily folded in this one. They didn't.