PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—Now that he’s returned from a sore back, Tracy McGrady doesn’t feel as if he needs to go for big points each game.
It’s his duty.
“Been there, done that. That’s no pressure. It’s my job,” he said. “It’s what I do.”
McGrady’s driving dunk early in the fourth quarter made it 72-57. Sebastian Telfair’s steal and layup pulled the Blazers to 78-71, but Portland—losers of seven of its last eight games—couldn’t get any closer.
David Wesley’s layup with 1:45 left gave the Rockets an 89-77 lead and many fans at the Rose Garden Arena started streaming toward the exits.
McGrady scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.
“In the fourth quarter I had it rolling and that was pretty much the difference,” he said. “When you’ve got a guy rolling like that you just keep on feeding him. If they want to double-team, find the open man and guys make shots.”
Since McGrady returned from a strained back, the Rockets have won three straight and four of five—including a 106-95 victory Thursday night in Sacramento.
Without McGrady, who has been nagged by back pain since the start of the season, Houston is 0-8.
Houston has won eight straight against Portland, including a pair of visits to the Rose Garden last season.
Zach Randolph had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers. He was played sparingly in the fourth quarter.
“Zach now is the focus (of opponents) who are defending him closely. He had some touches tonight but he just couldn’t seem to knock them down,” coach Nate McMillan said. “They do a good job of stopping penetration and patrolling the paint.”
Telfair had 17 points for the Blazers, who shot just 38 percent from the floor and had 16 turnovers.
The Blazers had lost six in a row before a 98-95 victory Friday night against visiting New Orleans.
Portland got a scare early when Telfair left the game with a sprained right thumb. He came out in the second half with his hand taped.
Telfair said he has a loose ligament, and would have it looked at after the game.
The Blazers are already depleted with leading scorer Darius Miles out with a knee injury which will require minor surgery.
The two teams kept it close in the first half, but Derek Anderson’s 19-foot jumper at the buzzer gave Houston a 47-42 lead at the break.
Rookie Martell Webster’s 3-pointer pulled the Blazers to within 49-47 but the Rockets began to pull away, going on a 12-4 run capped by Wesley’s fast-break layup that made it 61-51.
“We got it right in the fourth quarter,” Wesley said. “Hopefully we are moving in the right direction. To keep it going that way we’ve got to keep putting it in the basket and playing defense.”
Blazers center Theo Ratliff missed his second straight game with a foot injury. … Anderson, who played four seasons in Portland before he was waived in the offseason, was greeted with friendly applause from the sparse Sunday night crowd. … McGrady has had 35 points three times this season.