T-Mac hit 11-25 shots, etching a few more in to his highlight reel, for 26 points and was much more aggressive in going to the hole... but come on, 16 assists? That's just sick and illustrates how, by far, McGrady is the most crucial player in the Rockets offense.
Yao Ming was not sharp, but Deron Williams got worked. After Deron torched the Rockets on 10-14 shooting in Game 4, Houston held the Jazz point guard to just 4-16 from the floor for 13 points and 6 assists.
After two historically bad outings in Utah for Games 3 and 4, the Rockets looked like a beaten team yet again in Game 5, trailing by 10 midway through the second quarter.
But just when you thought the Rockets were done and Jeff Van Gundy's TNT career was near resurrection, Tracy McGrady and his supporting cast answered the bell.
T-Mac scored 26 points and handed out a career-high 16 assists to lead the Rockets to a 96-92 win and 3-2 series edge.
The series continues in Utah for Game 6 on Thursday.
In the scoring department, there were a few too many "heat check" catapults from McGrady, but, at times, he was magical. There are two highlights -- a vicious throwndown over a helpless Andrei Kirilenko and an insane double-pump, scoop layin through 2-3 defenders -- that you will likely see many times over the next day or two.
However, it was his playmaking that really won this game as most of his teammates, really for the first time all series, showed up.
Juwan Howard, who had hit just 4-21 in the series before tonight, came up big. The forward knocked down all 6 shots he took, grabbed 6 boards and picked a pair of steals in 26 minutes off the pine.
His bench partner in crime, Luther Head (who also has been brutal in the postseason), provided a boost too -- knocking down a pair of threes early in the fourth quarter that turned a 4-point deficit in to a Rocket advantage.
Head wasn't the only one nailing threes. For the first time all series, the Rockets tickled the twine from 22-feet out. Coming in to Game 5, the Rockets had hit just 27.8% as a team from long range through the first four games, but Monday night they hit 12-24.
They can thank Shane Battier, who nailed 5-7 triples and all of them seemed to be daggers for Utah.
But the role player who made the game-saving play? That would be Chuck Hayes.
After Rafer Alston had missed a free throw, the Rockets had just a 2-point edge with 20 ticks to go in the game. Van Gundy wisely pulled Yao Ming and put in Hayes for defensive purposes.
It paid off.
My new favorite 6 seconds in sports
Jazz foul Yao Ming at the offensive end, no call. They foul him at the defensive end, no call. They foul him in the act of shooting, no call. They foul him catching the ball, no call. Foul, foul, foul, no call, no call, no call.
Last 6 seconds of the game: Yao catches a Utah airball. He's standing there in the middle of the court, holding the ball, an entire arena and the TV audience staring at him. Next to him are Boozer and Millsap. They proceed to hack him, egregiously, 5 times, desperately trying to get any of the referees to blow the whistle.
No call. 6 seconds, 5 fouls, no call.
Live by the uncalled hack, die by the uncalled hack. Eat it, Jerry.
With 12 ticks left, Derek Fisher bolted to the basket seeking the tie, but Hayes cut off the lane, took the charge and the fate of the game was sealed.
As for Yao, let me say -- this is one of the worst games I've seen from Yao in years. How can someone who had 21 points, 15 boards, a key basket late and hit 4 free throws in the final seconds to finish the Jazz have been that bad?
Imagine a cute, 7-foot-6 furry bunny wrapped in linen, hopping around on a grassy knoll eating pink buttercups or something in a Cage Death Match against Freddy Krueger on amphetamines. It doesn't take a CSI episode to realize that there's a bloody glove in Carlos Boozer's locker. Tonight, Yao was hopeless inside defensively as Boozer either used his quickness to get a step or two en route to the hoop, or nailed a 12-16 footer.
Wonderful work from the line tonight from Yao (9-10), as always, but he's got to do better than 6-18 from the floor (now at 41.6% for the series). He's clearly the best frontcourt player in the series and a far better player than what we've seen, but it's time he started playing like it rather than looking as if he's regressed 4 years. I believe he'll get this turned around.
Overall, the win is what mattered most. A 3-2 series edge now puts the pressure squarely on Utah's shoulders. But, the Rockets have yet to show they are capable of playing well on the road in this series while the Jazz have.