“We’ve been down this road before. We’re prepared. Guys aren’t hesitant now, like previous years when Tracy was out,” said Alston, who finished with 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. “Guys are coming in confident, understanding they have to be aggressive and attack the basket.”
Yao Ming scored 21 points for Houston, which is 5-2 since McGrady went down last month with a left knee injury.
McGrady, sitting on the sideline in a jacket and tie, will be checked out by the Rockets’ medical staff Thursday to determine when he’ll be able to return.
“If we can get everybody else with their confidence to a higher level, when he comes back it just has to help us as a team,” Houston coach Rick Adelman said.
As Head said: “When McGrady comes back, we’ll have something to build on.”
But what are the Rockets like without their leading scorer?
“Quicker. They play quicker. They probably move the ball a little bit better,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “Tracy’s a tremendous player, but I’m sure they have a scheme without him and the scheme was to push it, play up-tempo, drive it and move the basketball.”
The Wizards also had a star scorer in street clothes, of course: Gilbert Arenas, out perhaps another two months after left knee surgery. But the two past All-Stars who have been leading the team in his absence, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, were quite quiet Tuesday.
Jamison was held to 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting, and Butler scored 12 on 5-for-16 shooting, part of a 41-percent night for Washington.
“We really couldn’t get it going offensively,” Jamison said. “We had very few open shots.”
Part of that is because of the 7-foot-6 Yao, who blocked four shots and altered others. His nine rebounds were also part of a 46-28 edge for the Rockets, and in the final minute, back-to-back offensive boards for the visitors drew boos from the home fans.
“What we didn’t have doesn’t show up in the stat sheet,” said Jordan, who decided to give his weary team Wednesday off. “They had a little bit more energy, a little bit more team effort.”
Andray Blatche’s only basket of the game pulled Washington within 80-73 with a little more than 7 minutes left. But after Butler missed a layup, Alston hit a 3-pointer, then assisted on Head’s 3.
When Yao tacked on a free throw after Jordan was called for his first technical foul of the season, it was 87-73 with 5 1/2 minutes left, and Houston was on its way.
“We share the ball very well,” Yao said. “I feel a lot of balance in the team.”
The Rockets hadn’t won three games in a row since Nov. 24-28. … Jordan has been critical of his bench’s effort lately, but the Wizards’ reserves outscored the Rockets’ reserves 31-17. … The big topic of the day in local sports was, of course, Joe Gibbs’ resignation as the coach and president of the Washington Redskins. “He’s a classy gentleman and he’s an awesome coach, a Hall of Fame coach,” Jordan said, “but what I liked most of all was the class and dignity that he brought to the table as a head coach in the NFL. Sad to see him go.”