McGrady fails to advance for sixth time
HOUSTON -- Tracy McGrady did it again.
Or more appropriately, he didn't do it again.
The seven-time All-Star, who had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in five previous attempts, was knocked out again Saturday night when Utah beat Houston 103-99 in Game 7.
McGrady, Houston's marquee player who was supposed to carry his team in the postseason -- or at least to the second round -- was instead upstaged by Utah's Carlos Boozer, a playoff rookie.
"Right now, it's a lot of hurt, man," said McGrady, who scored 29 points. "It's just disappointing, the outcome."
In his ninth season, McGrady called this series the "opportunity of a lifetime" and said he saw it as his best chance to advance.
And to be sure, McGrady had advantages he hadn't had in previous series. Besides having a stronger supporting cast, the Rockets had the best regular season record of any of his playoff teams and Houston had home-court advantage, also a first for McGrady.
This was his second trip to the playoffs with the Rockets after three postseason appearances in Orlando and one with the Raptors.
The loss marks the first time the Rockets have lost a Game 7 in Houston and drops McGrady's record in Game 7s to 0-3.
On Friday, McGrady said this game would not be the biggest game of his career.
"I've been in other Game 7s, why would this be the biggest?" he said. "I'm sure this won't be the last Game 7 of my career. I don't think this is the biggest."
He backtracked later, saying in a television interview it would be his biggest game.
After the game he took responsibility for the loss.
"Absolutely. I'm not shying away from that at all," he said. "I say this team is going to go as far as I take them. I tried my best. I tried, man. Maybe I could've made an extra play here. Maybe I could've gotten those loose rebounds that we didn't get down the stretch of the game. Maybe I could've done more. It didn't happen."
"I tried, man. I tried," he said before wiping away a tear and leaving the interview room.
At shootaround Saturday, he said he simply felt lucky to be in Game 7 the previous two times and he felt he had a chance to win this one.
But it wasn't to be.
A basket by McGrady cut Utah's lead to 101-99 with about 10 seconds left, but the Rockets couldn't foul until the clock ran down to 1.7 seconds. Andrei Kirilenko hit both free throws.
"It was more their execution," McGrady said. "They did a great job of executing their offense. They exploited us on the defensive end. They really did. We thought we would make some changes and have everything covered. It just didn't work."
This series, which Houston led 2-0, played out eerily similar to his other run with the Rockets. Houston jumped out to a 2-0 lead in 2005 before the Mavericks won four of the next five games to advance.
In his first playoff appearance in 2000 with the Raptors, McGrady was swept by a Knicks team led by Jeff Van Gundy, Houston's current coach.
After being traded to the Magic in 2000, he led Orlando to the playoffs three straight years, but never got out of the opening round.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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