The Rockets could again be without their star guard as they try to stop a season-high three-game losing streak Sunday with a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
McGrady has not played in any game during the skid because of back spasms. He is listed as day-to-day and the Rockets (14-9) are expecting him to return sometime during their season-high five-game road trip, which ends Friday against San Antonio.
Houston went 7-28 without McGrady last season, but with the emergence of center Yao Ming, the addition of Shane Battier and a healthy Rafer Alston, the Rockets thought they would be able to play better if McGrady got injured again this season.
Houston, however, lost 102-94 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday before opening this trip with back-to-back defeats to Golden State and the Lakers.
Yao had 35 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high eight blocked shots Friday, but Houston blew a 21-point first-half lead, committed a season-high 25 turnovers and allowed Kobe Bryant to score 53 points in losing 112-101 in double overtime to the Lakers.
“No matter how many points Kobe Bryant scored, we killed ourselves by turning the ball over, missing help on defense and missing defensive assignments,” said Alston, who had 19 points and 10 assists. “The quality of shots we started to take at times was uncharacteristic of us.”
Bryant was impressed with Yao, who is averaging a career-best 26.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
“He’s really come of age,” Bryant said. “There’s not too many big guys that can shoot the ball. He can turn both shoulders and get off a good shot, an incredible free-throw shooter, defensively, he had eight blocks. He’s something.”
The Clippers (10-12) have also dropped three straight, including Friday’s 109-99 loss at Portland. Los Angeles is allowing opponents to score 98.1 points per game after giving up 95.6 a contest last season.
“We shoot 59 percent from the floor and lose. That’s says it all,” coach Mike Dunleavy said.
Elton Brand had 23 points and 10 rebounds Friday and Shaun Livingston added 16 points and 10 assists for the Clippers, who have lost four of their last seven at home after winning their first six games at Staples Center this season.
Brand leads Los Angeles with 18.8 points per game, nearly six fewer than he averaged last season.
Corey Maggette returned after missing two games with knee and foot injuries, and had 18 points off the bench against the Trail Blazers. Sam Cassell, who missed one game with a left foot injury, played 12 minutes and had six points.
“We just didn’t play defense tonight and we need to improve that,” Maggette said.
The Clippers have dropped 11 of their last 13 games against the Rockets. Yao is averaging 18.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in those contests.