HOUSTON - As long as the Houston Rockets avoided the free-throw line on Wednesday night, they did just fine against the Detroit Pistons.
Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady goes up for a shot as Detroit Pistons' Antonio McDyess, rear, watches during the first quarter of a basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007 in Houston. [Agencies]
Tracy McGrady scored 29 points and Yao Ming added 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Rockets nearly entered the NBA record book for foul-shot futility before beating the Pistons 80-77.
The Rockets missed 14 of their first 15 shots from the line, before finishing 6-for-22 (27 percent) to win for the third time in seven games.
Houston wore throwback uniforms and it was all too fitting - the 1983 Rockets went 3-for-14 from the free-throw line (21 percent) in a game against Portland. Toronto is the only team in history to not make a free throw in a regular-season game, missing all three attempts in a game against Charlotte in 1996.
Good thing for the Rockets, the Pistons seemed to miss from everywhere else on Wednesday.
Rasheed Wallace scored 21, Chauncey Billups added 15 and Richard Hamilton had 14 for Detroit, which shot 36 percent (30 of 83) and went 4-for-15 from 3-point range.
The Pistons had won seven of their previous eight by an average of 20 points.
The Rockets built a 49-35 lead early in the second half, but kept the misfiring Pistons in it with their awful free-throw shooting.
Detroit went on a 16-6 burst to cut the deficit to 55-51 and McGrady then missed his next four shots from the free-throw line. Billups sank a jumper to pull Detroit within two. The Pistons went 10-for-17 from the field in the third quarter after going 12-for-44 in the first half.
Bonzi Wells ran for a two-handed dunk and was fouled by Jarvis Hayes to open the fourth quarter. But Wells missed the ensuing free throw, dropping the Rockets to 1-for-12 in the game.
Wallace sank a pair of free throws at the other end and Donald Murray's layup with 10:43 left tied the game at 59-all. Wells missed three more free throws before sinking one with 8:06 left, snapping a streak of 11 consecutive misses and drawing mock cheers from the crowd.
Luckily for Houston, the Pistons lost their touch again, missing five consecutive shots. Rafer Alston's 3-pointer with 6:49 left triggered a 10-0 Rockets run.
Hamilton sank a 3-pointer with 3:52 remaining, as Detroit mounted one more surge. Wallace hit a 3-pointer and Hamilton sank another one to pull the Pistons to 79-77.
Yao missed a long shot with about 30 seconds left and the Pistons came down with a chance to tie. Billups lost the ball out of bounds, but referees said the Rockets touched it last with 11.4 seconds left.
Wallace, then Billups, both missed 3-point tries in the closing seconds and Yao rebounded the second miss. Wallace fouled him and Yao stepped to the line with 0.8 seconds left.
Yao, an 88 percent free-throw shooter, missed the first but made the second to put Houston up 80-77.
Detroit called time out and Antonio McDyess lost the ball on an inbound pass as time expired.
The Pistons had won six of the previous seven meetings with Houston.