Dallas (32-21) at Houston (33-21)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 71° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Feb 20, 2009
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Tracy McGrady has never won a playoff series in his first 11 seasons in the NBA. That likely won’t change this spring.

In their first game since McGrady said he would undergo microfracture knee surgery, the revamped Houston Rockets continue their postseason push against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night in a matchup featuring two teams in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

McGrady’s averaged 65.5 games over four injury-plagued seasons since joining Houston in 2004-05. He’s already missed 18 in 2008-09 because of his chronically sore left knee, including the Rockets’ 114-88 rout of New Jersey on Tuesday

On his Web site Wednesday, the 29-year-old McGrady said the pain in his knee has been persistent and he will have the season-ending procedure.

“It’s been tough on me both physically and mentally and while we’ve come to this conclusion after much deliberation, we truly feel this is best for both me and the Rockets in the long term,” said McGrady, who averaged 15.6 points - his lowest since 1999-2000 - and was shooting a career-low 38.8 percent from the field.

But general manager Daryl Morey said Thursday that McGrady will meet with another doctor this weekend in Chicago first. Morey also said the Rockets want to discuss all possible courses of treatment with the seven-time All-Star.

“I’m not a doctor, I don’t know which one is the best one,” Morey said. “I just believe in hearing all the options and then deciding.”

The loss of McGrady may not be a problem. The Rockets have been victorious in their last three and are 13-6 without him this season. In six games without him since Jan. 19, Houston is averaging 107.2 points - 8.6 better than its season average.

McGrady played in both games against the Mavericks (32-21) this season with the road team winning each contest.

Ron Artest, the Rockets’ second-leading scorer (15.9) who started the last two games in McGrady’s place, has been quite successful against Dallas in 2008-09. Artest had 14 points and a season-high 13 rebounds in a 96-86 loss on Nov. 19 after a season-high 29 points with seven boards in a 112-102 victory on Oct. 30.

Artest will likely be joined in the backcourt for now by Aaron Brooks after Houston (33-21) traded starting point guard Rafer Alston to Orlando on Thursday in a three-team swap with Memphis. Brooks is averaging 10.3 points and 2.6 assists in 52 games, but he’s only made seven starts.

From the Grizzlies, the Rockets picked up guard Kyle Lowry, who they coveted when he came out of Villanova in 2006. While Alston led Houston with 5.3 assists this season, Morey bluntly said Lowry is better.

“Upgrading that position was a goal going into the deadline,” Morey said. “We feel like we accomplished it. Kyle’s going to be a guy this town really loves. He’s a really tough competitor, up-tempo player, a winner.”

Center Yao Ming had 20 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets in Houston’s first game since the All-Star break. Yao, who missed the Rockets’ loss to Dallas (foot), had 30 and 13 in Houston’s victory over the Mavericks.

The six-time All-Star is averaging 27.3 points and 13.3 boards in four games versus Dallas since the start of 2007-08.

The Rockets and Mavericks are locked in a tight race in the West, as fourth-place Portland and seventh-place Dallas are separated by just one game. Houston is sixth, a half-game ahead of the Mavericks.

The Mavericks defeated New Jersey 113-98 on Wednesday, improving to 7-2 since coach Rick Carlisle let veteran Jason Kidd start running the offense.

“We’ve put ourselves in position that if we make a run, we can get a high seed,” said Kidd, who had 23 points and 10 assists against his former club.

Kidd is averaging 7.5 points, 9.5 assists and 8.0 rebounds in the two games versus the Rockets this season, while eight-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 30.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in those contests.

Dallas has won four straight games in Houston since a 107-76 loss on Nov. 4, 2006, but the Rockets have been tough to beat at home this season.

Houston, which opened a five-game homestand Tuesday, has won five straight at the Toyota Center, and 17 of its last 20 there.

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Friday, Feb 20