Tracy McGrady looked like he was hurting Friday night - for maybe a minute.
Otherwise, McGrady looked like he could take on all challengers in his first game since January 8. Or perhaps the Bulls helped him look that good in the Houston Rockets' 109-108 double-overtime victory in front of a crowd of 20,550 at the United Center.
Shaking off rust quickly, McGrady scored a whopping 35 points, hitting crucial baskets late. Between McGrady and Juwan Howard, who scored 30, the Bulls had no chance of hanging on to their 13-point second-quarter lead.
McGrady scored seven points in the second overtime and put the Rockets up 109-106 with 42.8 seconds remaining with a baseline three-pointer.
Darius Songaila responded with a basket to bring the Bulls within one, 109-108, and rebounded McGrady's miss with less than 11 seconds to play to set up the Bulls' final possession.
After a timeout, Kirk Hinrich came up short on a awkward runner, and the Bulls' fate was sealed. With 4.9 seconds left in regulation, McGrady missed a jumper from the right wing with Luol Deng in his face, but he recovered for the rebound and swished a three-pointer from the baseline to tie the game 90-90.
Ben Gordon, who rescued the Bulls with a game-winning jumper at the buzzer Wednesday against the Knicks, came up short on a faraway three-pointer as time expired, and the first overtime ensued. McGrady came up short on a game-winning attempt in overtime.
McGrady's return made a huge difference for the Rockets. Back problems have forced him to miss 13 games, including the Rockets' last five.
Without McGrady and Yao Ming, Houston endured its worst loss of the season Wednesday to the Mavericks, a 27-point thrashing and its seventh in a row.
"It has to give them a lift," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said of McGrady's return. "You're talking about, for sure, one of the top 10 players in the league, maybe one of the top five players. You get a guy back like that, it has to give you a good shot in the arm.
"I'd prefer he didn't come back tonight. I know that."
Deng led six Bulls in double figures with 19 points.
Bulls fans got their first look at rookie Stephen Graham. Graham, fresh out of the CBA, made his official debut after signing a 10-day contract earlier this week.
He played nine minutes and scored five points.
As for the Rockets, they sorely miss Yao but still outscored the Bulls in the paint 38-24. Yao had toe surgery on his left foot on December 19 and isn't expected back until early February.
Spurs 101, Heat 94
At Miami, Tony Parker scored a career-high 38 points, including a game-clinching jumper with 38 seconds left, as San Antonio rallied to beat Miami.
The Spurs blew a 15-point third-quarter lead and had to escape a four-point deficit midway through the fourth, but won to match their best 40-game start (31-9) in franchise history. San Antonio had the same record last year on the way to winning the NBA championship.
Parker hit 13 of 18 shots from the floor and surpassed his previous career best of 35.
Tim Duncan added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs.
Dwyane Wade scored 36 points for the Heat (23-17), which was playing at home for the first time since January 1. Shaquille O'Neal had 23 points and Jason Williams added 18 for Miami, which has lost eight of its last nine games against San Antonio.