The Rockets will look for another strong team effort Friday when they host the struggling Atlanta Hawks, who have seven straight visits to Houston and 13 of the last 15 meetings there.
Shane Battier scored 23 points—highlighted by a 7-for-12 performance from 3-point range—as four Houston (17-12) players scored in double figures in a 96-71 win over New Jersey on Wednesday to avoid a third consecutive defeat.
It was the Rockets’ first win since losing Yao, who fractured a bone under his right knee in a 98-93 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday.
“Without the big fella down there, there are a lot more opportunities for everybody,” said Battier, who is averaging 10.0 points per game this season, but 21.6 in his last three games. “I’m not happy about that (Yao being out). We all have to do our part.”
Howard might be ready to pick up some of the rebounding slack with Yao out. He has posted double-digit rebounds in each of his last two games since joining the starting lineup.
“The team effort was great,” McGrady said. “I think we did a great job defensively, making everything tough especially for their big three. Vince had a tough night. I think Shane did a great job and we as a team did a great job helping out.”
Atlanta (9-18) has not won at Houston since a 93-87 victory on Feb. 25, 1999. The Hawks will also look to snap a season-high five-game losing streak overall. They’ve one just once in their last 10 games.
Even with guard Speedy Claxton and forwards Zaza Pachulia and Josh Childress back in the lineup after missing time with injuries, Atlanta shot less than 37 percent from the field for the second consecutive game and had its second-lowest scoring game of the season in an 89-76 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday.
Leading scorer Joe Johnson will try to break out of his slump. He had a season-low 10 points on 4-for-17 shooting from the field against the Cavaliers.
Johnson, who is averaging 26.9 points and shooting 49.1 percent from the field this season, has scored just 22 total points on 10-for-33 (30.3 percent) shooting in his last two games after scoring 31 in a 100-90 loss to Indiana on Dec. 22.
“Joe finally hit a wall, I thought, tonight,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “We just have to get the guys back playing with each other, and hopefully make some shots.”
Starting forward Josh Smith will be out four weeks following hernia surgery on Tuesday.
The Hawks might get some help in the paint after signing 6-foot-10 veteran Slava Medvedenko on Thursday. Medvedenko spent the last six seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, who waived him in March.