PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—Tracy McGady is reveling in the final push for the postseason.
“There’s going to be a team that wins 50 games and doesn’t make the playoffs,” he said. “So it’s a battle out there. I love it.”
McGrady scored 26 of his 35 points in the second half, and the Rockets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 95-88 Thursday night.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for Houston. The Rockets (50-25), once atop the Western Conference with a 22-game winning streak, are currently in fifth place with the Phoenix Suns.
“Every night is a competition,” McGrady mused. “One day you’re in the fifth spot, the next day you’re in the third spot. It’s crazy, man.”
The Rockets have won five straight against the Blazers, including four in a row this season. No other team has defeated Portland four times this season.
Rookie Aaron Brooks’ 3-pointer with 3:06 left made it 91-78 for Houston and all but sealed the victory, and fans started streaming out of the Rose Garden.
The Blazers, officially eliminated from the playoffs with a 104-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, have lost four straight.
Portland has been without All-Star guard Brandon Roy over that stretch because of a groin injury.
Roy has improved, and could return for Sunday’s game against San Antonio, although coach Nate McMillan said he remains day to day.
The Blazers were also without forward Martell Webster, who was hospitalized Thursday because of flulike symptoms and dizziness. The team said he would stay overnight for observation.
Webster, averaging 10.7 points and 3.9 rebounds, leads the team with 123 3-pointers.
Houston took a 36-28 lead on Shane Battier’s 3-pointer and extended it to 50-34 on Luther Head’s layup. The Rockets led 52-43 at the break.
The Rockets hit seven 3-pointers in the first half. Battier made all three of his attempts.
Mutombo had 10 of his points in the first half.
The Blazers closed to 52-50 early in the third quarter on Steve Blake’s jumper. Houston held the Blazers off until Jack’s layup and free throw midway through put Portland ahead 59-58.
Trailing 63-61, Houston went on an 13-0 run to take a 74-63 lead going into the fourth quarter. McGrady had 14 points in the third quarter alone.
“All-Stars, they take over games,” Aldridge said.
Despite being eliminated from the postseason, Portland is still playing to finish with a winning record. The Blazers (38-38) need to win four of the final six games.
Aldridge said the team definitely hasn’t given up.
“It’s not difficult—because we’re trying to build something here,” he said.
Brooks played for the University of Oregon. … Loyola Marymount is expected to name Blazers assistant coach Bill Bayno as its new head coach on Friday, said a person with knowledge of the move. The hiring, first reported by the Los Angeles Times on its Web site, was confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the school had not made a formal announcement. Bayno, who was head coach at UNLV from 1995-2000, has been with the Trail Blazers for two seasons.