After missing 2 1/2 weeks with a left knee injury, Tracy McGrady showed little rust in his return to the court for the Houston Rockets. He’ll look to build off that performance versus a team he’s had little success against lately.
McGrady looks to help the Southwest Division-leading Rockets win for the fifth time in six games on Saturday when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers.
McGrady, who had missed seven games with soreness in his left knee, returned to action Friday and had 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Houston’s 119-108 win at Golden State. The victory helped the Rockets (15-8) maintain their half-game lead over second-place San Antonio in the division.
“I felt pretty good,” McGrady said. “I was trying to do a little extra for us because of how hard I was working to try and get back. I got in a nice little groove.”
McGrady’s return came at an opportune time, as Ron Artest missed his second game of the last three with a sprained right ankle. Artest is also expected to sit out this game.
In addition to McGrady’s stellar performance on Friday, Yao Ming had 19 points and 14 rebounds after scoring 24 points and grabbing a season-high 19 rebounds in Tuesday’s 92-84 victory over Atlanta.
The Rockets, who have won four of five, have their best record after 23 games since the 1996-97 team started 21-2.
Two of Houston’s victories this season have come against the Clippers (5-17). The Rockets won 92-83 at Staples Center on Nov. 7, and defeated Los Angeles 103-96 at home on Dec. 3.
McGrady missed last week’s game against the Clippers, and was limited to a season-low two points against them in November while missing all five of his field-goal attempts. He is averaging 7.3 points on 21.9 percent shooting (7-for-32) in his last three games against Los Angeles.
Although McGrady has struggled individually against the Clippers, Houston has had little trouble defeating them.
The Rockets have won seven straight games over Los Angeles by an average of 12.3 points since a 98-93 loss on Dec. 23, 2006. Houston has also won six straight games at the Staples Center against the Clippers, and 10 of the last 11 meetings there. Los Angeles is just 2-10 at home overall this season.
Yao had 24 points and 10 rebounds against the Clippers last week.
Los Angeles, owner of the third-worst record in the Western Conference, defeated Portland 120-112 in double overtime on Friday behind Zach Randolph’s season-high 38 points.
Randolph, who was drafted by the Blazers in 2001 and played his first six seasons in Portland before being dealt to New York, also had 11 rebounds.
“I played here, so it definitely is motivating to try and get the win,” said Randolph, whom the Clippers acquired in a Nov. 21 trade with the Knicks. “Plus, we needed the win anyway.”
The Clippers have won two of their last three games after dropping seven of the previous eight. They have yet to win consecutive games in 2008-09.
Baron Davis added 27 points Friday, and sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer as time expired in regulation. He had 23 points and 11 boards in the loss to Houston last week.