Maybe the Houston Rockets are ready to make another February surge.
Yao scored 28, Scola matched a career high with 18 rebounds and McGrady added 16 points in the Rockets' 107-100 win over Chicago. Aaron Brooks scored 18 off the bench for the Rockets, who've won six straight and 11 of 12 games against the Bulls.
Houston has won 14 straight February games since 2007. This time last year, the Rockets were starting a 22-game winning streak. And with everyone finally healthy and a favorable schedule ahead, another run seems possible this season.
"I am happy with our position and I just wish we had won a few games we lost," said Scola, who scored 13 points. "We could be in the top three in the West, but we are getting better."
The Rockets led by 13 after three quarters, but started 1-for-5 with two turnovers in the fourth. Andres Nocioni's 3-pointer with 8:13 left finished an 11-3 Bulls' run to cut Houston's lead to 82-77.
Yao dunked, got fouled by Joakim Noah and converted the free throw to end Chicago's spurt. Carl Landry hit a free throw with 7:23 left and Yao scored again a minute later to restore the Rockets' double-digit lead.
"When they are healthy, they are a very dangerous team," Deng said. "Yao did a good job of knowing when our double-teams were coming. We weren't getting enough stops."
Yao went 9-for-12 from the field and 10-for-10 from the free throw line, overpowering every big man Chicago tried on him.
"They don't have any guy who can match up against us inside," Yao said. "I have the confidence. I just needed to get my game to work. It's very simple."
Chicago cut the deficit to six in the final minute, but Brooks drove for a layup with 28 seconds left to seal the win for Houston.
The Rockets never trailed in a game for the fifth time this season.
"We just force-fed Yao," Brooks said. "When you've got a horse like that in the middle, he can make so many mismatch problems. We found him, he found us and that's how we got it done."
Yao had two blocks and a basket in the first two minutes of the game. He also drew two quick fouls on Noah, sending him to the bench for 7-foot Aaron Gray.
The Bulls also missed their first 10 shots before Derrick Rose drove for a layup with 7:32 left in the first quarter. But Yao picked up his second foul with 7:06 left in the quarter and was replaced by the 6-9 Landry.
McGrady electrified the crowd with a driving, left-handed dunk, looking spry again after sitting out Saturday's win over Golden State with a sprained left ankle. The two-time scoring champion has been coping with a sore left knee all season and needed a play like that to prove to himself that he's still capable of making explosive plays.
"I was waiting on a moment like that," he said, "because I would be so timid, going to the basket and trying to dunk the ball. I'm glad tonight was that night."
But the Rockets led only 20-18 after one quarter, despite the Bulls' 24 percent shooting. Chicago stayed close by going 8-for-14 from the free throw line.
Yao started the second quarter and the Rockets maintained their narrow lead. Houston built a seven-point lead, but Yao picked up his third foul with 5:48 left in the half and went to the bench again.
The Bulls finished the half with an 11-2 run and trailed only 48-45.
With Chicago focusing on Yao, Scola scored seven points early in the third quarter to help stretch Houston's lead to 65-57. The Bulls hit only two field goals over the last six minutes of the third quarter and trailed 79-66 heading to the fourth.
Rose had 12 points and seven assists in his first game since spraining his left foot in the Bulls' 122-111 win in Phoenix on Saturday.
- Scola has 15 double-doubles this season.
- Bulls leading rebounder Drew Gooden sat out again with a strained groin he sustained against New York on Jan. 19. "He's still got some soreness there," Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro. "We'll just deal with it as a day-to-day thing."
- The Rockets are 18-1 this season when Yao scores 20 points or more.