The seven-time All-Star strained his right elbow late in the first half of the Rockets’ 93-90 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. He was taken to a hospital for tests and a doctor said McGrady should be healed in a week.
“It’s definitely good news,” McGrady said. “I actually thought it could have been a lot worse than what it was.”
Kobe Bryant scored 30 points and the Lakers took advantage of McGrady’s absence to snap a three-game losing streak to Houston.
The Rockets struggled with their shooting all night, finishing 30-of-85 (35 percent). Yao Ming had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five assists for Houston, but the stats were deceptive.
“We wanted to put Yao in a lot of screen and rolls and make him work,” Brown said. “We wanted to get him tired.”
Still, Houston had a chance to tie at the end. Yao missed a free throw on purpose, grabbed the rebound and passed to Rafer Alston, who missed a last-second 3-pointer.
“He almost surprised Alston with the ball, he made such an incredibly good pass to him,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “If he (Alston) had time to settle into his rhythm on that shot, it might’ve gone in.”
Derek Fisher had 13 points and Odom added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers.
Los Angeles built an 18-point lead in the first half without much help from Bryant, the league’s second-leading scorer.
Bryant missed six of his first seven shots, but Houston missed nine of its first 10 shots in the second quarter, five of them layups. The Rockets trailed 41-29 after Jordan Farmar’s bank shot with 6:58 left before halftime.
Later in the second quarter, Bryant hit three consecutive shots from the perimeter and found Fisher open for a 3-pointer that put Los Angeles up 52-35. McGrady sank a 3-pointer, but Bryant answered with a smooth fadeaway. Out of a time out, Fisher lobbed to Brown for an alley-oop dunk for a 56-38 lead.
“We wanted to kick it up a little bit and start taking advantage of some opportunities that we kind of saw developing,” Bryant said. “We were able to do that and that helped us gain a little bit of confidence.”
And that’s when Houston’s night really took a turn for the worse.
With 50 seconds left in the half, McGrady reached to swat the ball away from Walton. He hit Walton’s arm instead and McGrady’s arm snapped backward.
Brown fouled McGrady on the play and McGrady shot two free throws left-handed, making the first and badly missing the second. He went to the locker room before the half ended and was on his way to the hospital by the time the third quarter began.
He momentarily lost sensation in his fingers. Team doctor Thomas Clanton said McGrady stretched a ligament and a nerve in his arm.
“That’s why he was bent over and clutching his hand,” Clanton said, “because he had that zinger feeling down in his hand.”
The Rockets trailed 61-49 at the break, then opened the second half with a 19-8 burst. The suddenly sloppy Lakers coughed up five turnovers in the first eight minutes out of halftime and Alston’s floater in the lane cut the Rockets’ deficit to 69-68.
“We didn’t execute well,” Bryant said. “We started running on top of one another. Our spacing wasn’t good.”
Bryant started the fourth quarter on the bench and the Lakers maintained a slim lead.
With McGrady out and Yao struggling, Bonzi Wells carried the Rockets’ offense. He had eight points in the first five minutes of the final quarter and his driving layup tied the game at 79-all. Wells finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Bryant returned with 7:58 remaining and sank a turnaround over Mike James. Alston answered with a drive at the other end.
Yao scored over the 6-foot-11 Brown with 5:44 left to put Houston up 83-81, the Rockets’ first lead of the second half. Bryant hit a leaning jumper with 4:52 remaining to tie the game again.
Fisher and Bryant each hit a pair of free throws to push the Lakers’ lead to 87-83.
The Rockets got within three, but Wells, Alston and Battier all missed 3-point tries in the final minute.
“We got back in it,” Wells said. “We fought tough and it took a lot of energy for us to come back. We didn’t have it down the stretch, but we still gave ourselves a chance.”
Wells recorded his second double-double of the season. … Farmar grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. … Yao missed a free throw with 5:56 left in the first half, snapping a streak of 35 consecutive makes.