The Houston Rockets haven’t made much of a move in the highly competitive Western Conference despite their recent winning streak, but they’ve guaranteed they’ll start the second half of the season with plenty of momentum.
The Rockets (31-20) look to win their eighth straight Wednesday when they host the Sacramento Kings in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break.
Houston has won seven straight, including the last three by double digits. The Rockets are coming off a 95-83 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, their 11th win in 12 games.
Despite the winning streak, Houston remains in fourth place in the Southwest — the toughest division in the NBA—and tied with Golden State for eighth in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to keep grinding,” Rockets guard Tracy McGrady said. “We can’t lose sight of that. We have to realize that we control our own destiny. Let’s not worry about what other teams are doing. Let’s worry about what we’re doing.”
The seven-game winning streak is Houston’s longest since it reeled off eight straight from Jan. 31-Feb. 15, 2005.
Houston’s last win came thanks to a balanced scoring effort. All five starters finished in double figures, as Yao Ming scored 25 and Rafer Alston added 13 of his 17 when the Rockets pulled away in the third quarter.
McGrady had 12 points and six assists, but may welcome the time off. After struggling with injuries the first half of the season, he’s averaging 11.7 points the last three games on just 35.0 percent shooting.
McGrady has scored 30 points each of the last two times Houston has faced the Kings (23-27), although the Rockets lost the only meeting this season—a 107-99 defeat on Dec. 1 that snapped a three-game winning streak over Sacramento.
Sacramento is looking to avoid going into the break losing three straight after suffering two tough road losses. Following a three-point loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, the Kings lost 107-94 on Tuesday to the Memphis Grizzlies—one of the Western Conference’s worst teams.
Kevin Martin scored 33 points, going 9-of-23 from the field, and Mike Bibby and Ron Artest each added 18. Sacramento, though, shot just 37.4 percent while allowing the Grizzlies to shoot 50.0 percent.
Kings coach Reggie Theus said his team had difficulties adjusting to Memphis’ zone defense.
“It’s a simple game against the zone,” Theus said. “It’s not a jump shot and that’s what we made it.”
Sacramento hasn’t lost three straight since a season-high four-game losing streak Dec. 23-30. On Tuesday, The Kings were held below 100 points for just the fourth time in the last 18 games, and Artest was held to fewer than 20 points for the first time in seven games.
This week’s All-Star break provides some relief for Sacramento, which is in the midst of a road-heavy stretch in its schedule. Last Saturday’s game against the Warriors began a stretch of nine road games in 10 contests for the Kings, who are just 7-17 away from home.