The Rockets couldn’t extend their home dominance over one Eastern Conference opponent on Monday. They’ll get another opportunity on Wednesday night as they try to prevent the Milwaukee Bucks from winning their first game in Houston in nine seasons.
Houston (20-12) lost for the third time in four overall contests and had its seven-game home winning streak snapped Monday, falling 89-87 to lowly Washington. The Rockets had won six in a row at home against the Wizards, but spent the final two quarters battling from behind after scoring a season-low 36 points in the first half.
“The energy wasn’t there,” said McGrady, who scored 15 points after missing Saturday’s 120-115 overtime win over Utah with a sore left knee. “We weren’t making shots. We just weren’t a smart basketball team.”
McGrady said this week that he won’t play in both games of back-to-back sets this season due to his knee, however, he may want to face the Bucks as often as possible. McGrady is averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists as the Rockets have won seven in a row overall against Milwaukee, dating to Dec. 31, 2004.
The Bucks have also dropped eight straight in Houston, last winning 98-93 on Nov. 2, 1999.
Artest, who is averaging 24.3 points in his last three games versus Milwaukee, had a team-best 20 points against Washington but committed a season-high six turnovers. The Rockets are averaging 15.5 turnovers during their current 1-3 stretch. That could present a problem against Milwaukee which is among the league’s best in forcing 16.3 turnovers per game.
Hoping for the same spark he delivered last season, Houston signed 42-year-old center Dikembe Mutombo for the rest of 2008-09 on Tuesday. After Yao broke his left foot in February, Mutombo averaged 4.4 points, 6.6 boards and 1.8 blocks as the Rockets won 18 of their final 25 games last season.
The team has not announced when Mutombo will make his season debut.
While Houston looks for a win prior to its five-game road trip that begins Friday in Toronto, Milwaukee is trying to build off its 100-98 victory over San Antonio on Tuesday. The Bucks have won three of four on the road after losing eight of nine away from the Bradley Center.
Michael Redd had 25 points with a season-high 10 rebounds on Tuesday as Milwaukee (15-17) won for just the second time in San Antonio since 2001.
Redd has scored 26 points in each of his last two games in Houston despite shooting a combined 0-for-8 from 3-point range in those losses. Milwaukee has managed to win six of its last eight contests even with Redd shooting 28.6 from long range during that span.
Andrew Bogut posted his 14th double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Bucks held a 36-26 scoring edge in the paint over the Spurs.
“We didn’t run a whole lot of confusion stuff. We just ran some easy pick and rolls, and I got a couple of easy dunks to start the game,” said Bogut, averaging 7.0 points and 5.5 boards in two career games in Houston.