The All-Star guard looks to help the Rockets (19-12) match their season-high four-game winning streak as they host the Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday.
The Rockets have relied heavily on McGrady after Yao, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder at 25.9 and 9.4, respectively, suffered a broken bone under his right knee in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 23. McGrady has averaged 26.3 points his last four games after missing the previous seven— during which the Rockets went 2-5—due to back spasms.
“I’m playing with a great deal of confidence now,” said McGrady, who has 69 points in his last two games. “Not having the big fellow out there, a lot rides on my shoulders to carry this team. I’m just accepting the challenge.”
Yao is expected to be sidelined at least one more month.
McGrady’s confidence was evident Sunday, scoring a season-high 38 points and grabbing nine rebounds in Houston’s 111-109 win over Memphis. The Rockets are enjoying their longest winning streak since a four-game run from Nov. 20-28 that equaled their first four-game run from Nov. 7-12.
Houston has played well against Seattle of late, winning six of its last seven over the SuperSonics. The lone loss was a 104-87 defeat April 4, when McGrady was sidelined due to a back injury. He missed 20 games last season, and the Rockets’ 5-15 record in those games was a key reason they missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
“Last year when things happened, I don’t think we believed we could win,” McGrady told the team’s official Web site. “But we think we can win right now even though Yao is out. With me playing the way that I’m playing and other guys around me stepping up their games, we feel we can hold it down before Yao gets back.”
Now healthy, McGrady looks to continue his success against Seattle. He is averaging 35.8 points his last four games against the Sonics—all wins.
The SuperSonics (13-20) rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit Tuesday against Dallas to tie the game at 55 at halftime, but they were held to 33 second-half points in a 112-88 defeat to the Mavericks, Seattle’s ninth loss in its last 12 games.
“Whatever we had in the first half—the togetherness and the toughness—we didn’t have in the second half,” SuperSonics coach Bob Hill said.
The defeat was Seattle’s ninth in a row on the road, its longest road losing streak since a 12-game slide from Nov. 28, 1989-Jan. 31, 1990.
The Sonics are 4-13 on the road, with their last win coming on Nov. 22 at Utah. They have been outscored by an average of 12.1 points during their road losing streak.
Seattle’s slump has dropped it to last in the Northwest Division, 10 games behind first-place Utah.
Ray Allen, who leads the team at 24.3 points per game, scored 18 of his 27 points in the second quarter but went 3-for-9 from the field in the second half. Allen, who scored 32 points in his last game against the Rockets, has averaged 21.3 points in 21 lifetime games against Houston.