While the Memphis Grizzlies finally ended a 12-game losing streak in their most recent game, their next opponent is hoping another kind of run is just getting under way.
The Houston Rockets are finally getting healthy, and though another streak like their 22-game run they were starting a year ago seems unlikely, they’ll hope to capture a third straight win as they continue a soft part of their schedule Wednesday in Memphis.
But all three players were in the lineup on Tuesday, as they followed up Saturday’s 110-93 win over Golden State with a 107-100 victory over Chicago.
While McGrady and Artest helped out against the Bulls, it was Yao’s 28 points and Aaron Brooks’ 18 off the bench that sparked Houston, which held the Bulls to 42.4 percent shooting. Yao was 9-of-12 from the field and 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
“We just force-fed Yao,” Brooks said. “When you’ve got a horse like that in the middle, he can make so many mismatch problems. We found him, he found us and that’s how we got it done.”
The Rockets are still in sixth place in the Western Conference, just three games ahead of ninth-place Utah, but they’re hoping another second-half surge is in order as they pursue a third straight playoff berth.
“I am happy with our position and I just wish we had won a few games we lost,” forward Luis Scola said. “We could be in the top three in the West, but we are getting better.”
Last season’s team also dealt with some inconsistency early, but began a franchise-record 22-game winning streak on Jan. 29. Houston probably won’t be able to equal that feat, but with its next five games against sub-.500 teams and seven of its next nine at home, a shorter winning streak appears within reach.
That stretch begins in Memphis, where the Rockets will try to reverse some recent road woes. They’ve dropped seven of their last 10 road games, going 1-2 on their last trip with losses at Indiana and New York.
Houston also lost 109-97 in Memphis on Dec. 8, but played that game without Artest and McGrady. The team had won eight of its previous nine against the Grizzlies.
Memphis (12-35) will be coming off a victory for the first time since early January after the Grizzlies’ longest losing streak in six seasons ended with a 113-97 win at Washington on Monday. O.J. Mayo led the way with 33 points, while Rudy Gay added 23 and Marc Gasol had 22 and 11 rebounds.
“We got the monkey off our back, definitely,” Mayo said. “Twelve-game losing streak, I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life.”
The streak claimed the job of head coach Marc Iavaroni on Jan. 22, but new coach Lionel Hollins is hoping his young team is making progress. Memphis’ starting lineup against the Wizards included three rookies, and the 24-year-old Gasol was the oldest starter.
“They haven’t lost 12 in a row with me,” Hollins said. “They know we’re starting fresh and they have something that’s new and exciting and they’re buying into it.”
The Grizzlies could get another boost Wednesday with the potential return of Darko Milicic, who has missed the last 18 games with a broken hand. The former No. 2 overall pick had shown some improvement before the injury, reaching double figures in points in five of his last seven games.
Memphis has gone exactly one month since its last home win, dropping seven straight at FedEx Forum since a 102-82 win over Dallas Jan. 4.