For the first time this season, the Rockets won without having one of their regular starters in the lineup as Yao scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots, and Luis Scola scored a caree-high 22 points in a 103-83 victory over Memphis on Friday night.
“I think we need to build a solid team, and be able to win with whatever we have,” Scola said of playing without McGrady, the league’s 10th-best scorer at 22.8 a game. “If we want to do something big, we need to be solid. We need to have four or five people step up.”
McGrady is sitting out about a week to rest his sore left knee, and entering Friday night’s game, the Rockets were 0-6 when a starter was missing, including 0-3 without McGrady.
Shane Battier scored 18 points, going 3-for-4 from outside the 3-point arc for Houston. Scola, the 6-foot-9 rookie out of Argentina, was 11-for-17 from the floor.
Yao said a win without McGrady may help turn around the struggling team. Houston entered having lost four of five.
“(McGrady) is hurt some days, and we have to know how to win without him,” Yao said. “I think everybody played with their full effort and played with discipline and with a passion.”
Pau Gasol led Memphis with 23 points, but the Grizzlies struggled from the field, shooting 36 percent. Darko Milicic scored 12 and Mike Miller added 11 for the Grizzlies, who lost for the 11th time in the last 13 games.
“The shooting was hard to open up,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “We were turning down open shots. It wasn’t good for the shooting muscles. When you have a shot, you have to take it. We have no confidence.”
The Grizzlies never threatened after Houston opened a double-digit lead in the third period. Scola’s 10 points in the final quarter helped keep Memphis at bay. The struggles are starting to show on the Grizzlies. The team seems to be pressing more as the losses continue to mount.
“The sooner we can turn this around the better because, otherwise, the load just keeps getting heavier and heavier,” Gasol said.
“I know it looks hard to say right now, but we go on a 10-, 11-game win streak, and we’re right back in the mix of things,” Miller said.
Houston led 50-43 at halftime behind Yao’s 10 points. Gasol scored 12 for Memphis.
The Grizzlies’ poor shooting started early, missing 17 of their 23 first-quarter shots, and they were still under 30 percent early in the second quarter. That helped the Rockets build a 12-point lead. Yao missed only one of his six first-half shots before foul troubles midway through the second period sent him to the bench.
Without the 7-foot-6 center’s presence in the middle, the Grizzlies were able to put a dent in the double-digit deficit with 10 straight points.
Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, was scoreless in the half. He finished with eight points, missing 10 of his 13 shots from the field.
Houston extended the lead to 78-65 entering the fourth, as Alston, Yao and Battier provided the offensive punch.
“I thought we did a great job in the second half when (the Grizzlies) were trying to front-in, and we attacked the other side,” Houston coach Rick Adelman said. “We got really good opportunities from other people.”
“It’s just the growth of our team that the more guys that we get involved, and the more they mature and get a sense of what they can do, it’s just going to help us in the long run.”
Memphis rookie G Mike Conley Jr. continues to go through full contact practices and has even taken a shot or two to his injured right shoulder, but still did not dress for Friday’s game. …Battier still had a bit of a shiner and stitches over his left eye from an elbow he took in Saturday’s game against Chicago. Battier, who has left three games this season for stitches, had four games in which he needed stitches during the 2005-06 season, his last with the Grizzlies. … Yao also had a bandage over his left eye after he suffered a cut in Sunday’s game. … Wells started his second game of the season in place of McGrady. … Scola is averaging 18 points over the last three games. His previous high this season was 20 points, accomplished three times.