McGrady has missed the last two games with a sprained right elbow suffered in last Wednesday’s 93-90 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. He practiced without incident Monday, and indicated he would wear a sleeve on the elbow for this contest.
“It was one of the weirdest injuries I’ve ever had,” McGrady told the Rockets’ official Web site. “I could have played if it wasn’t my shooting arm. It was just a minor setback.”
It’s clear that McGrady’s absence hurt Houston (6-5) center Yao Ming, who averaged 13 points while shooting just 33.3 percent (11-for-33) from the field during losses to Phoenix and San Antonio in the last two games. Yao had averaged 27.6 points over his previous five contests.
“I didn’t get the ball (against San Antonio) because of the front defense and against Phoenix because of their speed,” Yao said. “My foul troubles have taken me out of a lot of games. It’s almost like I never went to the game. I just need to play my game.”
McGrady had one of his best games of the season Nov. 6, when he scored 35 points in a 107-98 loss at Dallas. Jason Terry had 31 points for the Mavericks (8-2), while Nowitzki managed only 19 while shooting 7-for-20.
Nowitzki has been off to a bit of a slow start, but turned in his best game of the season in a 105-99 win over Toronto on Tuesday. The reigning league MVP scored a season-high 32 points, including four straight 3-pointers in the final 1:41 of the third quarter as the Mavericks took the lead for good after trailing by as many as 24 points.
Nowitzki made 4 of 6 shots from beyond the arc after shooting just over 26 percent (6-for-23) on 3-point attempts over his first nine games.
“Dirk’s stretch is what really put the game away for us,” Dallas point guard Devin Harris said.
Nowitzki was out of the game in the second quarter when Harris sparked a 12-0 run that cut the 24-point deficit in half. It set the stage for Nowitzki’s big third quarter.
“That little spark in the second quarter, knocking the lead down the way that we did before halftime, really got us going in the third quarter,” Harris said. “We kept chipping away. Obviously, we knew we would back a run. It’s nothing new for us.”
Dallas is seeking to improve to 4-0 within the Southwest division. Every team in the Southwest except Memphis has a winning record, but the Mavs are the only team yet to lose a division game.
The Mavs have won eight of the last nine meetings with the Rockets, including three of the last four in Houston.