Facing Yao Ming won’t make his job any easier.
With Yao expected to return Friday night after a one-game absence, the Rockets look for their seventh straight win over the struggling Wizards, who are banking on a couple of lineup changes to end their struggles.
Washington (1-8) has lost three straight, averaging 83.7 points in that span. Against Atlanta on Wednesday night, coach Eddie Jordan started McGee at center for Etan Thomas and replaced Juan Dixon with Dee Brown in the backcourt. McGee and Brown, though, combined for six points as the Wizards lost 91-87.
McGee, the 18th pick in June’s draft who adds athleticism to the frontcourt, had five points and five rebounds in his first start.
If McGee remains in the starting lineup, his next test will be particularly tough. Houston (7-5) expects Yao to return after sitting out a game due to a sore left foot.
The Rockets desperately missed Yao’s presence inside in a 96-86 loss to Dallas on Wednesday night. The six-time All-Star said the injury isn’t serious after undergoing tests on Tuesday and Wednesday that revealed no structural damage.
“It’s nothing bad,” said Yao, who leads Houston with 16.9 points per game. “I’m all right, actually. I’ll maybe take a few days, maybe one day.”
Yao has played a large role in the Rockets’ dominance over the Wizards in recent years.
Houston has won six straight against Washington since a 101-98 road loss on March 2, 2005. Yao has played in four of those contests, averaging 30.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.
Without Yao, the banged-up Rockets shot 37.2 percent from the field versus the Mavericks.
Tracy McGrady, who’s been bothered by a sore left knee, had 16 points and shot 5-for-14 from the field. Ron Artest, playing with a sprained right ankle, finished with 14 points and also shot 5-for-14.
“It’s going to take (McGrady) some time - you hope it’s just going to get better as he doesn’t have pain or anything,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “But it’s definitely affected him and it certainly affects us, too, because we’re so used to him with the ball in his hands and finding people.”
McGrady is shooting 39.5 percent on the season. He was held to 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting in a 94-69 win over Washington on Feb. 26.
Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 18 points and nine rebounds in that contest. He had 18 points and 11 boards versus Atlanta, but Washington came up short again.
“It’s the same situation,” Jamison said. “We’re just not closing games out. We’re making the same mistakes. We’ve played it over and over again.”
Caron Butler had an outstanding game Wednesday for the Wizards, finishing with a season-high 32 points while pulling down seven rebounds. He leads Washington with 20.8 points and is second behind Jamison with 7.1 boards per game.