NEW ORLEANS (AP)—The Houston Rockets’ winning streak just got a whole lot more impressive.
“We talked about making a statement,” said Rockets coach Rick Adelman, whose team also set a franchise record with 10 consecutive road victories. “We feel we’re playing as well as anybody in the league right now and we want to show that we can continue to do that by playing the best teams and getting the win.”
Tracy McGrady scored 34 points on an array of perimeter jumpers, driving layups through crowds and soaring dunks, helping Houston build an early double-digit lead it maintained throughout the second half in snapping New Orleans’ five-game winning streak.
“We understand this is one of the teams that’s ahead of us,” McGrady said. “I wanted to really set the tone right away. I wanted to attack and see how they were going to play defensively. It was one-on-one and I got it rolling.”
Houston improved to 2-0 since trading Bonzi Wells and Mike James to the New Orleans Hornets shortly before Thursday afternoon’s trading deadline. And reserve guard Bobby Jackson, the primary player the Rockets received in the deal, hasn’t even suited up yet.
This was the Hornets’ first game since the trade. Wells and James were unable to play for New Orleans and sat on the bench in street clothes, watching their old team run their new one out of the building. Jackson was still in Houston for his physical. The trade would not be official until that was complete.
Although New Orleans has a 7-footer of its own in Tyson Chandler, the matchup against the 7-6 Yao did not go well for the Hornets’ center.
“New Orleans is a very good team and this gives us confidence,” Yao said. “It means a lot for us to beat them on the road and also keep our winning streak and also the 10 (game) winning streak on the road. … We made history, right?”
Yao scored on seemingly effortless jump hooks and short turnaround jumpers. Other times, he rotated into the paint to steal rebounds from Hornets forwards and casually lay the ball back in.
“They punched us first; that was the game,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “They just were a much more aggressive, physical basketball team. We never reacted the way we were supposed to. … We took two steps back and allowed them to do whatever they wanted.”
Chandler, who came in averaging 12 points and 12.4 rebounds, finished with nine points and five rebounds.
“Their stars played great tonight,” Chandler said. “Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady played exceptionally well. It was hard to stop them sometimes and when they get rolling like that they’re a tough team to beat.”
Rafer Alston had 11 assists and added nine points for the Rockets, who led by as many as 27 points, outshot New Orleans 49 percent to 40 percent and outrebounded the Hornets 55-38.
The Hornets simply had an off night, narrowly missing a slew of shots they would normally make, both inside and from the perimeter. New Orleans shot 16 percent (3-of-18) in the second quarter and 33 percent for the first half.
“Defensively, we’re locked in,” McGrady said.
The Rockets have held eight of their last nine opponents under 90 points. … Alston and Chandler each were assessed technical fouls when they exchanged words and Chandler shoved Alston after Chandler’s alley-oop dunk. … West was called for a technical in the fourth quarter for shoving Carl Landry to the floor after Landry had fouled West under the basket.