There was the 3-pointer several feet behind the arc, with the shot clock starting to buzz and a hand in his face. Then there was the baseline dunk that followed and, soon after, a swished 15-footer that helped protect a shrinking lead.
Yet as much as Tracy McGrady dazzled, it was the clutch baskets by his supporting cast that showed why the Houston Rockets feel so good about their playoff chances.
McGrady scored the majority of his 34 points while the Rockets were building a big early lead, then Mike James and Jon Barry made it hold up in the fourth quarter, preserving a 98-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their first-round series Saturday.
``I feel this is my time,'' said McGrady, who also had six assists and five rebounds. ``I'm more confident than ever and I've got my team feeling the same way.''
McGrady has never made it out of the first round in his career, going 0-for-4 and stung most by a blown 3-1 lead in his last postseason, two years ago in Orlando. This is his first season on the Rockets, who have been bounced in the opening round their last three playoffs. They last won a series in 1997, when the lineup featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley.
This season's mix of McGrady, center Yao Ming and a bunch of hardscrabble veterans already was thinking big. A solid victory -- and a team history of being 17-1 when winning Game 1 of a series -- has them even more excited. Game 2 is Monday night in Dallas.