BY CHRIS DUNCAN
The Associated Press
HOUSTON - Tracy McGrady had 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Yao Ming had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Houston Rockets, who nearly blew a 21-point lead but hung on to beat the Chicago Bulls 101-100 Thursday night.
Rafer Alston scored 19 and reserve Scott Padgett scored 11 to spark a first-half run as the Rockets beat the Bulls for the seventh time in eight meetings.
Ben Gordon almost single-handedly carried Chicago to a dramatic comeback win, scoring 30 of his 37 points in the second half.
He scored nine in the final minute and his driving bank shot with 27 seconds left cut Houston's lead to 95-92. After Shane Battier sank two free throws, Gordon swished a 3-pointer with 15.2 seconds left to pull the Bulls to within 97-95.
Alston hit two foul shots with 14.4 seconds left and Gordon missed a 3-pointer from the wing. Luther Head sank two free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining.
Andres Nocioni had a layup and a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
Gordon hit 11 of 22 shots and had six rebounds.
The Bulls' comeback bid was reminiscent of Houston's 92-84 loss to San Antonio on Tuesday, when the Rockets blew a 19-point lead in the third quarter.
The Rockets missed 12 of their first 19 shots before Padgett's 3-pointer late in the first quarter triggered a 20-6 burst.
Padgett scored all of his points and grabbed five rebounds during the spurt and Kirk Snyder finished it with a three-point play that gave the Rockets a 37-30 lead.
After hitting six of their first eight shots, the Bulls missed 17 of their next 23.
Yao had nine rebounds in the opening half and banked in a turnaround just before the halftime buzzer to put the Rockets up 50-39.
Houston started the second half with a 12-2 burst, capped by McGrady's banked-in 3-pointer. McGrady shrugged his shoulders and high-fived team owner Les Alexander as he trotted down the court.
But the lead was hardly secure.
On Tuesday, Houston led San Antonio by 19 late in the third quarter, then missed 25 of its last 27 shots to lose. The Rockets also nearly blew big second-half leads in narrow wins over Memphis, Milwaukee and New York.
And about the same time the Rockets had collapsed against the Spurs, it started happening again.
Gordon's pull-up jumper with 3:50 left in the third quarter cut Houston's lead to 74-55 the exact score when San Antonio started its comeback two nights ago.
Houston missed its last five shots of the quarter and Gordon scored 10 points in three minutes to help Chicago trim the deficit to 78-69 heading to the fourth.
The Bulls got within seven before Head swished a 3-pointer with 8:04 left for an 84-74 lead.
The Rockets led 90-79 when Gordon hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line to start the Bulls' last-ditch rally with 3:29 to go.
Notes: Bulls center Ben Wallace strained his right biceps in the first quarter and went to the locker room. He returned early in the second quarter with black tape wrapped around the injury. ... Bulls G/F Adrian Griffin sat out for the second straight game with a right calf strain. ... The Rockets improved to 33-3 under coach Jeff Van Gundy when they reach 100 points.