Even though Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets finally proved they could win without Tracy McGrady in their last outing, they would prefer to have the All-Star back in the lineup when they visit the Orlando Magic.
Yao scored 22 points and had a season-high 21 rebounds to lift the Rockets to a 91-88 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday. It was Houston’s first victory in 14 games this season when McGrady hasn’t played.
McGrady, who followed up his 36-point performance in the All-Star game by scoring 26 in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, missed Friday’s contest because of a death in the family.
Houston’s leading scorer has struggled all season with personal issues, and the team is uncertain when he will return.
“When Tracy is out of the game, it’s really hard for us to get open shots,” Yao said. “That puts more pressure on me and I had to play much harder.”
Yao shot 8-for-19 from the floor and had 17 of his 21 rebounds on the defensive end. It was the third time in his career that he recorded 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game.
“I don’t think Yao gets the credit defensively for the improvements he’s made in lateral quickness and mobility,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “He’s made great strides, and it’s a nuance of the game that very few want to recognize.”
Juwan Howard scored 22 points for the Rockets, who won for the ninth time in their last 11 outings.
Keith Bogans, acquired from Charlotte on Feb. 9, replaced McGrady in the starting lineup and scored 13 points for Houston, which squandered a 15-point lead and fell behind by six in the fourth quarter before rallying for the win.
Orlando ended a six-game losing streak to Houston with a 76-74 victory on Nov. 8 behind Steve Francis’ game-high 27 points, but this time around, will need to find scoring from someone else.
Francis was traded to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, and on Friday, the Magic showed they could win without him by defeating the Seattle SuperSonics 102-89 to snap their season-high eight-game losing streak.
Dwight Howard and Grant Hill combined for 42 points, and Orlando got solid performances from both Carlos Arroyo and Darko Milicic—playing at home for the first time since they were acquired from Detroit on Feb. 15.
Arroyo had a season-high 18 points and four assists, while Milicic added eight points and five rebounds in 22 minutes for the Magic.
“I thought Carlos and Darko both executed our offense well and made no mistakes as far as where they were supposed to be on the floor,” Orlando coach Brian Hill said. “Carlos is experienced enough that he’s going to get the ball to the right people and I was very pleased with Darko. He has a really good feel for the game.”