HOUSTON (AP)—For a change, the Houston Rockets were all smiles after a home game.
That wasn’t the only difference following the Rockets’ easy 102-78 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, searching for reasons why the Rockets had lost 10 of 13 home games, shook up the team’s pre-game routine to simulate the road, where they’re 11-13.
“We’re eliminating the nonsense,” Van Gundy said. “I’m fed up. I’m sick of losing at home and playing terrible basketball. Nonsense is always a distraction.”
The players noticed the changes as soon as they arrived before the game:
— The team lounge was locked.
— Instead of a hot meal, a table in the locker room was stacked with cold subs.
— The six current injured players were not allowed to sit on the bench.
At least for one night, the ploy worked.
Tracy McGrady scored 29 points in three quarters as the Rockets snapped a seven-game home losing streak with perhaps their best performance at the Toyota Center all season.
“He’s just trying to change up the atmosphere around here and make it feel like we’re on the road,” McGrady said of Van Gundy. “He’s the general and we’ve just got to follow his rules.”
Seldom-used Lonnie Baxter added a season-high 18 points and 11 rebounds and David Wesley added 15 for Houston, which snapped a seven-game losing streak. The Rockets hadn’t won a home game since a 91-73 victory over Boston on Dec. 6.
Wesley felt like the pre-game alterations helped.
“Coach did a full change in here,” Wesley said. “There were a lot of changes and it looked like they worked.”
Matt Carroll had 19 for injury-depleted Charlotte, which dropped its season-high ninth straight game.
The Rockets, meanwhile, rode one of their best home-court offensive performances of the season to their third win in four games. The NBA’s second-lowest scoring team shot 46 percent (39 of 84) and had 26 assists, a season-high for a home game.
Van Gundy is prepared to keep the new routine—whether the players like it or not.
“I don’t like our home environment,” he said. “I don’t like it at all. I’m going to do what I can to make the environment what I think it should be to be able to play our very best. If that ruffles feathers, I don’t care.”
McGrady noticed the subs the second he walked into the locker room before the game.
He started slowly once the game started, missing seven of his first eight shots. He went out with 2:38 left in the opening quarter and the Rockets mounted a 16-7 run with a lineup that included Baxter and rookies Chuck Hayes and Luther Head.
McGrady returned with 7:18 left in the half and promptly sank a deep jumper to widen the Rockets’ lead to 37-24.
Carroll swished two 3-pointers during a 13-1 Bobcats’ run late in the second quarter, but a basket and a free throw by McGrady put Houston up 51-44 at the break. After the sluggish start, McGrady finished the half with 15 points.
The Rockets opened the second half with a 10-2 run and stayed in control from there. Still, Houston couldn’t get out of the feel-good night without one more injury scare.
In the closing seconds of the third quarter, McGrady drove down the lane and got elbowed in the nose by Jake Voskuhl. McGrady crumpled to the floor— reminiscent of his Jan. 9 collapse because of back spasms that kept him out of the next five games.
This time, though, McGrady sprang up with nothing but a bloody nose. Trainer Keith Jones stopped the bleeding with a towel and McGrady shook his head and sank a free throw before leaving the court.
McGrady said he’s considering wearing a protective mask for Friday’s game against Minnesota.
The Rockets led 82-58 after three quarters—a higher point total than they’ve had in 13 full games this season.
“Our guys competed really hard for the most part,” Van Gundy said. “It’s wasn’t like we overwhelmed them with talent, that’s for sure.”
McGrady didn’t play in the fourth, finishing with eight rebounds and six assists.
The Bobcats got outrebounded 48-34. Their losing skid is one shy of the team record set last season.
“Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on right now,” said Brevin Knight, who had 14 for Charlotte. “If I could tell you, I’d fix it. Right now, we’ve just got to find a way out of this.”
Rockets F Ryan Bowen sat out for the second straight game with an irregular heartbeat. …The Bobcats have lost 130 games to injuries this season. The Rockets have lost 170. …The Rockets led a home game after the first quarter for just the fifth time this season. …The Bobcats had won the only three previous meetings between the teams, including a 111-106 double-overtime win on Jan. 10.