Head made a free throw with 3 seconds left, then rebounded his intentional miss, got fouled and made two more to finally put away Houston's 86-82 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
Head said coach Jeff Van Gundy told him to miss on purpose, leaving the Wizards with almost no time to go down the floor for a tying basket. Head's rebound made Van Gundy's call look even smarter.
"It was actually a good play," Head said. "You never go into a gym and practice missing free throws. But it came off and I got it."
The Rockets were outscored in the fourth quarter for the seventh time in 12 games, a disturbing pattern that's nearly cost them in two other home games.
"It would concern me if we were losing games," McGrady said. "I will take a win any way I can get it."
Gilbert Arenas scored 26 and Caron Butler added 14 for the Wizards, who were doomed by poor shooting. Arenas, the league's fourth-leading scorer, went 8-for-26 from the field and Washington finished 28-for-84 (33 percent). The Rockets also had a 57-44 edge in rebounding.
"I like the way my team played," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "We just can't make shots right now."
Still, the Wizards looked like they might rally to win after Arenas' 3-pointer with 5:43 left finished a 13-2 run that trimmed Houston's lead to 72-71.
The Rockets missed 11 of their first 14 shots of the fourth. The Wizards had seven chances to take the lead, but each possession ended with a turnover or another missed shot.
"For the most part, I saw us organized," Jordan said. "We just couldn't knock it down. It was a test of wills."
Arenas fouled Head on a 3-pointer with 2:33 left and Head sank all three free throws to put the Rockets up 75-71.
Arenas missed a bank shot at the other end before Head sank a 3-pointer from the corner to end Houston's 5½-minute field-goal drought.
Butler and Arenas went 8-for-10 from the free throw line over the next minute and Washington trailed only 80-79 with 29 seconds left.
McGrady drew in the defense on a drive, then found Rafer Alston for a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left. But Arenas banked in a 3 with 3.8 seconds remaining to keep the Wizards within one.
Antonio Daniels immediately fouled Head on the inbound pass to set up the finish.
The Rockets have won five games by seven points or fewer and Van Gundy is worried how often they're getting away with sloppy play.
"Whenever you turn the ball over 22 times, you're never going to look good on offense," he said. "Right now, we're winning despite our turnovers. History tells you, that will not continue."
The Rockets seemed ready to blow the game open in the first half.
Houston reserve Vassilis Spanoulis sank a 3-pointer and scored on a driving one-hander in the final minute of an ugly first quarter to give the Rockets a 23-15 lead.
Washington missed 17 of 23 shots and was outrebounded 17-10 in the opening quarter.
Yao started 1-for-5, then hit two turnaround jumpers in the last 90 seconds of the first half to carry the Rockets to a 40-28 lead at the break.
The Wizards finished the half a dismal 11-of-44 from the field (25 percent) and their 28 first-half points were a season low.
"We're one of the best offensive teams in this league," said Daniels, who scored 11. "For us to have 28 points in the first half, that's just not us."
Washington hit five of its first eight shots of the second half to get within five. But Yao had found his range by then, too, and sank a pair of turnarounds to extend the lead to 51-40.
Yao had eight points in the third quarter and flipped in a hook shot early in the fourth to give Houston a 68-56 lead.
But the Rockets went cold and Butler's emphatic dunk over Yao with 9:03 left foreshadowed the rally to come.
But it fell short and Washington lost its fifth straight game to the Rockets in Houston.
- Rockets F Chuck Hayes started for the first time since bruising his left knee in a collision with Shaquille O'Neal on Nov. 12. Hayes had six points and three rebounds.
- The Rockets' 86 points were a season low for a Washington opponent.
- The Wizards have lost 18 of their last 21 games to the Rockets in Houston.