HOUSTON Tracy McGrady shouldered the burden of doing it all in Orlando, and had no playoff success to show for it.
With a little more help in Houston, McGrady is on the brink of a postseason breakthrough.
Playing with the desperation of a man on the brink of elimination, McGrady had 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help the Rockets avoid a first-round exit with a 101-83 victory over Dallas on Thursday night.
''He's our superstar and we ride him,'' Rockets guard Mike James said. ''Tonight we tried to help him with the load. We know he's going to lead us, we've just got to chip in.''
The series is now tied 3-3, with Game 7 in Dallas on Saturday. The winner will face top-seeded Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals.
James came off the bench for 22 points, Jon Barry scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and Dikembe Mutombo provided some stout interior defense for the Rockets, who have been bounced in the opening round in their last three playoff appearances. Houston last won a series in 1997, when the lineup featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley.
Jerry Stackhouse led Dallas with 21 points, and Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 on only 5-of-22 shooting as he continued his series-long struggles against McGrady's defense.
Rockets fans who were disappointed by blown fourth-quarter leads in the last two home games, including a 20-0 run by Dallas in Game 3, were treated to an improbably dominant finish in this one.
McGrady scored eight straight points, including two 3s, during a 19-0 spurt that turned a close game into a rout and gave Houston a 101-80 lead. Dallas could not stop McGrady with double teams, rough play or simply allowing him to fire away from outside.
''When I feel like I can make 3s from anywhere on the floor,'' said McGrady, who went 6-of-10 from behind the arc, ''my defender is at my mercy.''
The Mavericks couldn't even counter with their highly touted offense. Dallas shot 4-for-27 in the final period, watching shot after shot bounce off the rim as the Rockets pulled away down the stretch.
McGrady, who has never advanced past the first round in his eight-year career, came through in the clutch to avoid having his team blow a two-game lead for the second straight time. It also happened when he played for Orlando against Detroit in 2003.
''I've been in this situation before,'' McGrady said. ''I'm going to lay everything out on the line leave everything out there on that basketball court, and I'm going to bring my teammates with me.''
Back in Orlando, of course, he never had this kind of help: an All-Star big man in Yao Ming, a bench teeming with driven veterans, and a coach who once led an eighth-seeded team to the NBA Finals.
After drawing a $100,000 fine the largest ever assessed against a coach for accusing officials of targeting Yao this postseason, Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy was greeted by loud cheers during pregame introductions.
That didn't stop Van Gundy from giving officials a mouthful after a hard foul on Yao midway through the second quarter that sent the 7-foot-6 center tumbling to the floor. Yao scrambled to his feet and stared down at Dallas' Josh Howard a rare show of anger from the gentle giant but was quickly escorted away by teammates.
That foul seemed to wake up the Rockets, who soon took their first lead of the game on a three-point play by Ryan Bowen.
Celtics 92, Pacers 89, OT
INDIANAPOLIS In the wildest game yet of a series headed to a Game 7, the Celtics overcame the late ejection of Paul Pierce and sent their first-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers back to Boston.
Antoine Walker scored 24 points Thursday night, including a go-ahead 3-pointer early in overtime and the clinching basket with a minute to go, in Boston's 92-89 victory.
Boston came back from an early 11-point deficit, took the lead late in the second quarter and stayed in front until the closing seconds of regulation, when Pierce was ejected for his second technical foul.
Boston led 84-83 at the time, and Pierce had just been intentionally fouled by Jamaal Tinsley as the Pacers tried to stop the clock. Tinsley hit Pierce in the neck while fouling him, and Pierce appeared to swing his elbow in anger.
Referee Steve Javie did not immediately make a call. But after huddling with the other two officials, Pierce was assessed his second technical foul of the game an automatic ejection.
Reggie Miller hit the technical foul shot to tie the game, and the Pacers got to choose which Celtics player would replace Pierce at the foul line. They selected Kendrick Perkins, a 64 percent foul shooter, and he missed both attempts.
The Pacers then had a chance to win, but Miller shot an airball from well behind the 3-point line, sending the game to overtime.
''I just lost my cool,'' Pierce said. ''It almost cost us, but I'm excited we got this win. The guys really picked me up.''
Al Jefferson scored the first basket of the extra period, and there was one more tie before Walker's 3-pointer put the Celtics ahead to stay. His next basket made it 91-87 before Tinsley scored, and Indiana got the ball back with 15 seconds left.
Jermaine O'Neal then missed a 16-foot turnaround and the ball went out of bounds over the backboard. Delonte West hit one of two free throws to finish the scoring for Boston, and Indiana's Anthony Johnson missed a 3-pointer after Indiana inbounded with 0.7 seconds left.
Ricky Davis had a playoff career-high 22 points and Pierce added 20 for Boston. O'Neal led Indiana with 26 points.
The winner of Game 7 on Saturday will open the Eastern Conference semifinals at defending NBA champion Detroit.
''I think Reggie might have just played his last game in his building,'' Walker said in a postgame interview with Turner Sports.
Walker had 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, but it was Boston's bench that initially put the Celtics in position to win.
Led by Davis and Jefferson, who finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds, the Celtics' bench outscored the starters in the first half to overcome Indiana's early lead.
The Pacers scored the first 10 points of the game, and a basket and free throw by Miller gave Indiana its biggest lead, 19-8, before Pierce scored his first points on a pair of free throws.
Boston cut it to 27-20 at the end of the period on Raef LaFrentz's buzzer-beater, and the Celtics continued their comeback while the Pacers went cold in the second quarter. A rebound basket by O'Neal put Indiana up 31-27, but the Pacers missed their next seven shots and managed just five free throws over the next six minutes.
A 3-pointer by Davis gave the Celtics their first lead, 37-36. Jefferson then dunked off an assist by Pierce, Pierce hit two more free throws and Gary Payton scored on a fast break following an Indiana turnover to complete a 14-1 run for a 43-36 lead.
The Celtics led 49-43 at the half and 70-62 after three quarters before consecutive 3-pointers by Indiana's James Jones and Fred Jones started the frantic fourth quarter.
Indiana pulled within one but failed on three straight possessions to tie or take the lead. Johnson hit one of two free throws with 27 seconds to go, making it 84-83, before the foul on Tinsley and Pierce's ejection.
Notes: Miller, who had 12 points, needs 27 points to pass former Celtics player Sam Jones (2,909) for 18th in playoff career scoring. ... The last time Boston won a playoff series after trailing 3-2 was in 1988 against Atlanta. ... Former Players Walt Frazier, George Gervin and Dominique Wilkins attended the game as part of the NBA Legends Tour.
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