Portland (35-20) at Houston (35-21)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 89° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Tue Feb 24, 2009
  • TV: KGW, FSH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Tracy McGrady is done for the season. That doesn’t mean the Houston Rockets have given up on theirs.

In fact, they’re playing better without McGrady in the lineup.

Houston looks for its season-high fifth consecutive win Tuesday night as it hosts a Portland Trail Blazers team looking for the same success on the road that it has enjoyed at home.

The Rockets (35-21) won their seventh straight at the Toyota Center on Sunday, defeating Charlotte 99-78 as McGrady missed his fourth consecutive game with soreness in his left knee.

McGrady met with a doctor in Chicago on Monday and is scheduled to have microfracture surgery Tuesday that will sideline him for the rest of the season, maybe longer.

“It’s a good thing that we know - this is who we have, this is who we are,” Luis Scola said after posting his fourth straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds Sunday. “Now, everybody can take a role, whatever it is, and it’s a good thing. I wish we could have everybody healthy. But this is who we have now, and we have to take it.”

Houston, though, hasn’t been affected much by McGrady’s injury distractions. The Rockets have won seven of the last eight games he’s missed and are 15-6 without him this season, compared to 20-15 when he plays.

With McGrady officially out for the season, the Rockets now can concentrate on their current roster.

Aaron Brooks has stepped into the starting lineup after point guard Rafer Alston was traded to Orlando on Thursday in a three-team deal that brought Memphis guard Kyle Lowry and Magic forward Brian Cook to Houston.

While Brooks has averaged 13.0 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 boards in two games as the starter, the Rockets’ new additions have provided little contribution. Lowry has scored as many points—eight—as fouls he’s committed in two games while Cook has appeared in only one, scoring two points.

Ron Artest reclaimed a spot in the starting lineup when Houston lost McGrady and has played well, averaging 20.0 points and making 12-of-25 from 3-point range in the last four games.

That stretch has seen Yao Ming contribute 21.3 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, but one of his worst performances of the season came in the Rockets’ only meeting with the Blazers.

Yao had 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting with six rebounds at Portland on Nov. 6, though his three-point play with 0.8 seconds left gave Houston a one-point lead. However, Brandon Roy countered with a 30-footer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 101-99 victory.

Roy, averaging a career-best 22.8 points this season, is scoring 27.0 per game on 60.9 percent shooting in his last four contests. The third-year guard had 20 points, eight boards and nine assists as Portland (35-20) closed its three-game homestand Sunday with a 116-87 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Blazers have won eight straight at home but have dropped three in a row on the road. They open a three-game road trip Tuesday.

In his third game back since missing 13 of 14 with a separated right shoulder, Steve Blake tied an NBA record for assists in a quarter with 14 in the first.

“When it comes to assists, your teammates have to make shots, and they did that for me,” said Blake, who finished with a season-high 17 assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge was a major beneficiary of those passes, scoring 18 of his team-high 28 in the opening 12 minutes.

Aldridge had 27 points and nine boards against Houston in November as Portland ended a five-game losing streak in the series.

The Rockets have won eight of nine at home against the Blazers.

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Tuesday, Feb 24