For the next 10 weeks, I will rundown the top ten Houston Rockets games of all-time. I hope you enjoy this as not only a time killer during the lockout but as a fun discussion/arguement point with your buddies. Thanks to my buddy Ryan for helping me with the list.
Thursday, December 9th, 2004
The year was 2004 and Tracy McGrady was in his first year as a member of the Houston Rockets. After much fanfare, excitement, and hope, the Rockets started off 6-11 and left every Rocket fan disappointed and shaking their head. The Rockets would eventually turn it around and go into the All-Star break at 32-21 and finish at 51-31 for the season. Bob Sura's return from injury and insertion into the starting lineup on December 2nd was a huge factor in the turnaround; Sura averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal for the season. In Sura's 59 starts, the Rockets went 42-17.
The Rockets came into the game as underdogs despite being at home for obvious reasons, the Spurs were a great team and would go on to win the NBA Title that season. Under Jeff Van Gundy the Rockets put all their eggs into the big two of Yao & T-Mac and this game was a great example of that. Yao and T-Mac combined for 60 points on 21-44 shooting; the other 3 starters (Sura, Bowen, Howard) combined for 9 points on 4-19 shooting. The Rockets held a 38-34 halftime lead but trailed 58-54 going into the 4th and 76-68 with just :35 seconds left; the game was assumed to be over.
At that point, T-Mac went to work. He nailed a three-pointer, the Spurs answered with 2 free-throws. T-Mac came right back down, got Tim Duncan up in the air on a pump fake, and connected on a four point play. The Rockets fouled on the inbounds pass and after two more free-throws, the Spurs led 80-75 with 16.2 seconds left. As expected the Spurs doubled T-Mac on the next play with Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen, Andre Barrett almost threw the ball away, but T-Mac out jumped Parker for the ball, drove right, and nailed a pull-up 3-pointer over Bowen with 11.2 seconds left to cut the Spurs lead to 80-78. The ensuing Spurs inbounds pass went to Devin Brown, who decided to drive to the basket, lost his footing, lost the ball, and lost the game. T-Mac picked up the loose ball with 7 seconds left, dashed up the middle of the court, pulled up at the 3-point line and swished the game winner with 1.7 seconds left.
Tony Parker was able to get off a shot before the buzzer, but it went wide left and McGrady's teammates mobbed him at center court in a moment that looked like a pitcher being dog piled after winning the World Series. In the end, it was a 1 point win during the regular season and the Spurs went on to win the title. But for the hundreds of fans still in Toyota Center and the viewers still watching on TNT, it was one of the most exciting, single-handed comeback wins they'd ever seen. During those 35 seconds the basket seemed to be as wide as the ocean and T-Mac had no trouble sinking buckets. It was a simply amazing performance. On a personal note, I had tickets to that game. But, for reasons not worth explaining, I wasn't in the building...I still regret it. Thanks a lot Travis.