The Rockets look to continue their hot streak when they host the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.
With a 104-83 win over Charlotte on Saturday, the Rockets (32-18) improved to 16-7 without their All-Star center, who isn’t scheduled to return until mid-March.
Houston, which went 7-18 without Yao last season, has won seven of its last nine games.
Tracy McGrady is averaging 27.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game since Yao fractured a bone in his right leg Dec. 23 against the Los Angeles Clippers. Forty-year-old center Dikembe Mutombo has been another major factor in the Rockets’ recent success, averaging 11.3 rebounds per game since stepping into the everyday starter’s role.
“To see how he’s grinding through these games and these minutes against front-line players is inspiring,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
Mutombo had 14 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday’s victory, his 15th game with double-digit rebounds since Yao’s injury. Luther Head led six Rockets in double figures with 17 points.
Rafer Alston had a career high nine steals to help Houston force a season-high 27 turnovers.
“Our defense was the key, especially in the second quarter. We’ve got a lot of guys being active on the defensive end, showing a lot of defensive energy,” said Rockets forward Juwan Howard. “It’s good to get a victory. Now we have to move on. We know we have a tough team coming in here on Tuesday and we will go from there.”
The Kings (22-27) had a season-high five-game win streak snapped in a 114-103 loss to Seattle on Sunday.
“We have to put it behind us,” forward Corliss Williamson told the team’s official Web site. “We felt good about the way we played the last five games. With the exception of tonight, I think this team is heading in the right direction. Now we have to see how we’ll respond and it will say a lot about our character.”
Williamson had his second double-double of the season off the bench, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Martin finished with 24 points to lead Sacramento in scoring for the fifth time in six games.
The Kings are just 7-15 on the road this season, but have won two in a row there after dropping eight of their previous nine away from Sacramento.
Getting a win in Houston, though, could be a challenge. The Rockets are 18-6 at the Toyota Center, and only league-leading Dallas has fewer home losses.
Like the Rockets, Sacramento will be without its starting center on Tuesday. Brad Miller will his third straight game with pain from a left foot injury. He is expected to return after the All-Star break.
Houston won the first meeting between these teams Jan. 13, riding McGrady’s 37 points and nine assists to a 115-111 overtime victory. McGrady has averaged 26.9 points, 6.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds in seven games against the Kings since joining the Rockets in 2004. Houston is 5-2 against Sacramento with McGrady in the lineup.