On December 9, 2004, Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets wrote a memorable chapter in the ongoing I-10 rivalry with the San Antonio Spurs.
The All-Star guard scored 13 points in just over 33 seconds to lead the Rockets to an 81-80 victory at Toyota Center, in front of a dwindling crowd, many of whom didn’t stay to see the history-making final seconds.
The Spurs ended November 2004 with a 12-3 record, the best in franchise history for that month, with wins 3 out of 4 in December.
Coming into Houston to face their cross-state rivals, who entered the game with a less-than-impressive 8-11 record, the Rockets and their fans admittedly maintained little hope of beating the team who won the NBA title just two years prior.
All of this in spite of future Hall of Famer David “The Admiral” Robinson’s retirement the year before.
With 6:36 to go in the fourth quarter, the game stood tied at 60; the Spurs went on a 14-4 run to take a 74-64 lead with 52.9 seconds to go and victory seemed at hand.
However, San Antonio’s run prompted another – this one a from the Rockets’ fans running for the exits, rather than sticking around and waiting for another, expected fourth-quarter collapse.
A pair of put-back buckets from the Rockets’ Yao Ming and Scott Padgett closed the gap to 74-68, but, then, a pair of free throws from the Spurs’ Dee Brown opened it right back up to 76-68 with 44.2 seconds to go.
From there, the game turned into the Tracy McGrady Show:
T-Mac made a three-pointer to get the Rockets within five points. After a pair of Dee Brown free throws opened the lead back up to seven points, McGrady made a three-pointer and drew a shooting foul on Tim Duncan.
T-Mac hit the free-throw to complete the four-point play and close the gap to three points.
San An’s Tim Duncan hit another pair of free throws to widen the gap back to five, but McGrady hit another long three-pointer to narrow the Spurs’ lead to 80-78 with 11.2 seconds to go.
On the next Spurs’ possession, McGrady got the steal and hit another three-point shot to give the Rockets an 81-80 lead with 1.7 seconds left.
The Spurs’ Tony Parker missed a three-point shot with no time left, and the Rockets took the victory.
And so it goes.
In the immortal words of longtime Rockets broadcaster Gene Peterson, “How Sweet It Is!”