McGrady had 26 points while running the offense, Jackson hit two key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and the Rockets got back to playing like they did during their 22-game winning streak in a 109-106 victory against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
"We just had energy," McGrady said. "We had a lot more energy than we did the last two games. We did a better job executing and moving the ball. This was a big win."
The Rockets had been blown out in back-to-back games to bring an end to the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, failing to reach 75 points in either loss. So coach Rick Adelman matched Golden State's small lineup and ran much of the offense through McGrady in the post. McGrady responded with eight assists to go along with his big scoring night.
"He just puts so much pressure on the other team when he gets the ball," Adelman said. "It was good to get it started that way."
The power-packed Western Conference gave the Rockets little cushion, and a third consecutive loss would have dropped them into a tie for sixth place with San Antonio in the conference. Instead, they moved within percentage points of New Orleans for the lead in the Southwest Division.
"This is an insane race," said Shane Battier, who added 17 points. "You can't even begin to worry about it. You just have to win games. At the end of the day, if you win enough you'll be in the right spot."
Carl Landry returned from a seven-game absence from a knee injury to score 17 points for the Rockets, who started their 22-game winning streak with a victory against Golden State on Jan. 29. Jackson scored 16 off the bench.
The loss cut Golden State's lead against Denver for the final playoff spot in the West to 1½ games.
"We've got to be a lot smarter -- that's what it comes down to," Golden State's Stephen Jackson said. "We've just got to be a lot smarter on the court and that's a game that definitely hurts. We've still got a lot of games left but this is a game we should've won. We flat out should've won."
Ellis tied the game at 87 midway through the fourth quarter when he scored on an acrobatic scoop to the hoop, sending the fans to their feet. But Houston answered the charge out of a timeout, getting a jumper by McGrady and an off-balance, double-clutch 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down from Jackson to start an 8-0 run.
"Just throw it up there and pray that it goes in," Jackson said. "I'm just glad I made it. I had to double pump because Baron would have blocked it if I didn't."
The Warriors came right back in a fourth quarter that had a playoff intensity to it. Pietrus hit a 3-pointer, Ellis scored on another impressive drive and Davis converted on a fast break as Golden State scored seven points in a little more than 50 seconds to make it 95-94 with about three minutes remaining.
Davis' 3-pointer tied the game for the Warriors, but Bobby Jackson responded by hitting an open 3 of his own. The teams traded baskets before Golden State missed a pair of potential game-tying 3-pointers from Pietrus and Jackson with about one minute remaining. Davis missed another 3 that could have tied it with eight seconds left and Houston held on for the victory.
"We didn't play with a sense of urgency," Davis said. "We gave them a lot of easy buckets and a lot of open shots. That's something we talked about before the game."
- Dikembe Mutombo, who had started all 12 games since Yao Ming went down with a season-ending foot injury late last month, did not play at all against the smaller Warriors.
- Stephen Jackson teamed with five-time Grammy winner John Legend to promote the Show Me Campaign, which aims to fight poverty in Africa. Jackson pledged to donate $500 for every point he scored in the game. He finished with 15, for a $7,500 contribution. Jackson plans to travel to Africa this summer.