With or without McGrady, though, the slumping Rockets will look to stop a five-game losing streak when they face the Atlanta Hawks in a matchup of two of the league’s worst teams.
The Rockets star swingman missed his third straight game Saturday, an 86-80 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Houston fell to 0-11 without McGrady, who has struggled with back spasms all season.
There is no timetable on a return for McGrady, who is averaging 25.3 points and 6.8 rebounds.
“When he feels like he’s capable of playing and the trainers and doctors concur and I concur, then he’ll go back out there and play,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
McGrady said he felt good enough to play after practicing Friday, but would be leaving the final decision to Van Gundy.
“You’re just afraid to make certain movements out there,” said McGrady about the psychological effects of the injury. “You think about, ‘OK, if I go up on this jump shot, what’s going to happen on the landing?’ All kinds of things go through your head.”
Unfortunately for Houston, McGrady is not the only one missing from the lineup. The Rockets have six players sidelined by illness or injury, including center Yao Ming, who has missed 12 games since undergoing toe surgery in late December. He’s expected to be sidelined for at least another two weeks.
The Rockets had a good chance to get their first win of the season minus McGrady on Saturday, holding New Orleans to 13 second-quarter points and taking a 36-31 halftime lead. However, Houston’s roster of nine players couldn’t hold off the Hornets, losing 86-80.
“We just lost our intensity,” said Houston rookie Luther Head, who scored 18 points. “The whole game, we played great defense, trying to slow them down and keep them in front of me. We just slipped up on a couple of plays at the end.”
Juwan Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Rockets, who have lost six straight at home.
Houston snapped a seven-game losing streak in its first meeting this season with the Hawks. It was McGrady’s first game back after missing five straight.
The Hawks are coming off a 114-106 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
Atlanta has dropped four straight and is an NBA-worst 9-26, the league’s only team with fewer than 10 wins.
After erasing a 10-point deficit late in regulation, the Hawks made 3-for-9 from the floor in overtime while the Wizards shot 4-for-7 and hit all seven of their free throws.
“We thought we had them, but we didn’t take care of business down the stretch,” said Atlanta guard Salim Stoudamire. “In overtime, we didn’t clamp down. You have to be consistent.”
Stoudamire finished with 21 points while Joe Johnson had 23 points and 11 assists for the Hawks, who will be playing their fifth game in seven days.