Tracy McGrady got shut down by one of the NBA’s toughest defenders his last time out.
McGrady was limited to a season-low six points on 3-of-16 shooting while being defended primarily by Tayshaun Prince in a 78-70 loss to defending Eastern Conference champion Detroit on Friday.
The Rockets’ forward sat out the fourth quarter with back spasms as Houston dropped its second straight.
“That’s not me out there,” McGrady said. “I’m hurting my team and I’m hurting myself. It was tough to sit there and watch the game. But at the same time, it’s tough for me to be going out there and go through what I’m dealing with.”
The Rockets are 0-3 this season without McGrady, who was out due to back spasms from Nov. 5-10. McGrady is shooting just over 30 percent (17-of-56) over his last three outings.
Sunday’s game might be a good opportunity for McGrady to rest since he would likely be guarded by Artest, the NBA defensive player of the year two seasons ago. McGrady took advantage of Artest’s suspension last season to average 22 points in two games against Indiana.
Houston averaged 80.7 points in three games without its leading scorer this season and has scored over 90 just three times in nine games.
“There’s no sugarcoating it. We’re 3-6 for a good reason,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “We have a lot of improvement to make and we plan on doing that.”
Indiana bounced back from an embarrassing 122-90 loss at Charlotte on Wednesday by posting a 93-85 victory over the Bobcats on Friday. Jermaine O’Neal had 29 points and 18 rebounds and Sarunas Jasikevicius added all 14 of his points in the second half.
The Pacers are giving up 97.6 points per game and allowing opponents to shoot 45 percent from the floor. Indiana limited opponents to 92.9 points per game a season ago.
“We’re not holding people to 60-point games,” O’Neal said. “That’s something this city has been used to. It’s a marathon. It doesn’t matter how you start.”
Indiana, which has won three straight at home, converted its last 21 free throws Friday. Jasikevicius is 22-for-22 at the line this season.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 19): Rockets - 5th place, 4 1/2 GB, Southwest Division. Pacers - 3rd place (tied), 2 1/2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - McGrady, 21.7 ppg; Yao, 8.8 rpg; Rafer Alston, 4.1 apg. Pacers - O’Neal, 22.4 ppg and 10.3 rpg; Tinsley, 5.9 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 11; Rockets, 91-83. At Indianapolis, Bob Sura scored 17 points and McGrady added 16 as Houston spoiled Indiana’s first game after Reggie Miller announced he would retire at the end of the season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 2-3 on the road; Pacers - 3-1 at home.