Memphis (7-24) at Houston (18-12)

Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 60° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Sun Dec 31, 2006
  • TV: FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Tracy McGrady is recovering just in time to help the Houston Rockets overcome Yao Ming’s injury. A coaching change, meanwhile, may have come too late to spark the Memphis Grizzlies.

McGrady, proving healthy enough to take over for Yao as the Rockets top offensive threat, looks to build on one of his best scoring games of the season in a matchup with the Grizzlies and interim coach Tony Barone on Sunday.

Less than a week after returning from back spasms, McGrady scored 31 points in only 27 minutes to lead Houston (18-12) to a 94-68 rout of Atlanta on Friday.

The six-time All-Star was playing his third game since missing the previous seven with the back injury. He received treatment last week from Dr. John Patterson, a rehabilitation specialist who’s worked on Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens and tennis star Andy Roddick, among others.

“It’s a process,” McGrady said. “Each game, I’m feeling better physically, mentally. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get where I want to be, but it seems like it’s coming around.”

The Rockets have won two of three games since Yao broke a bone under his right knee. The 7-6 center, who leads the team with 25.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, is out at least six weeks.

Houston swingman Bonzi Wells, meanwhile, may miss his second straight game with a back injury. Wells, signed on Oct. 2, has missed 19 of Houston’s 30 games.

The Rockets are playing the second of four consecutive home games, hoping to turn in another strong defensive performance. They’re holding opponents to 84.7 points per game at Toyota Center, and have held five of their 12 opponents under 80 points there.

Houston will now try to continue its success against Memphis, its Southwest Division rival. The Rockets have already won two games against the Grizzlies this season, holding them to 78.0 points per game and 38 percent shooting from the field.

McGrady tied his career-high with 13 assists and scored 19 points to lead Houston to an 85-76 win over Memphis on Nov. 25.

Mike Miller scored 27 points and Pau Gasol added 22 and 11 rebounds as Memphis (7-24) beat short-handed Toronto 110-104 on Saturday night in Barone’s debut.

Barone, the team’s director of player personnel, took over on an interim basis after Mike Fratello was fired Thursday. Barone received a warm reception even when he came out of the tunnel before the game.

“We’re going to play basketball with our guys as opposed to running plays simply to run plays,” Barone said. “I think that we’ve got to clear their mind a little bit in terms of comfortability on the court.”

The Grizzlies showed a level of intensity and enthusiasm unseen in recent weeks while they were losing 14 of 16 games, but they still have the league’s worst record and appear resigned to a rebuilding season.

Memphis guard Eddie Jones was in the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 12. Jones missed 13 games with an Achilles’ injury before coming off the bench the last 11 games while Dahntay Jones started.

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Sunday, Dec 31