Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hornets-Rockets Preview

by the Associated Press, from Foxsports.com
GAME: New Orleans Hornets (1-14) at Houston Rockets (7-11).

TIME: Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

Tracy McGrady is starting to take on more of a leadership role for the Houston Rockets.

McGrady looks to lead the Rockets to back-to-back wins for the first time in more than two weeks when they host the lowly New Orleans Hornets.

McGrady, acquired in a blockbuster trade with Orlando during the offseason, had a long talk with coach Jeff Van Gundy last week about his place on the team.

"I understand what he wants me to do now, which is to be aggressive, the way I was in Orlando," McGrady said. "I was (being) passive."

After that discussion, McGrady went out and scored 48 points Thursday, but the Rockets had their losing streak extended to five games with a 113-106 overtime defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

Houston returned home to face Philadelphia on Saturday, and although McGrady had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, he found his range when it counted most.

McGrady had 17 points, including the winning basket with 25 seconds to play, as the Rockets ended their skid with a 77-76 win over the 76ers.

McGrady missed 16 of 22 shots before hitting the big one.

"I got the shots I wanted tonight, I just couldn't knock them down," said McGrady, whose worst shooting night this season was a 1-for-11 game against Denver on Nov. 27. "But it's not how many you miss. It's the ones you make, and I made the last basket of the game."

Van Gundy got his 300th career coaching victory in his 100th game with the Rockets.

"I thought the more significant baskets he made were when we were down by eight and he made some offensive rebounding plays," Van Gundy said of McGrady. "Those are will plays, and will usually beats skill.

"But obviously the last play of the game was big. He got separation and space and made it after a tough night."

Houston hasn't won consecutive games since Nov. 20-21.

New Orleans dropped its sixth straight and fell to 1-14 on the season with a 92-69 loss to the defending champion Detroit Pistons on Saturday.

All-Stars Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire are out with injuries, along with free-agent pickup Rodney Rogers. Then, less than two minutes into Saturday's game, David West, who had become a recent starter, sprained his right knee and did not return.

"We're real thin right now with the injuries." New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "But that was not the biggest problem. Our lack of intensity was our big problem. This is the first time all season we came out and played scared. We looked like we were afraid of that team. We were scared to compete."

The Hornets have a 3-12 record in Houston.

STANDINGS: Hornets - 5th place, 13 GB, Southwest Division. Rockets - 3rd place, 8{ GB, Southwest Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Hornets - F West or Chris Andersen, F Lee Nailon, C P.J. Brown, G David Wesley, G Junior Harrington. Rockets - F Juwan Howard, F Jim Jackson, C Yao Ming, G McGrady, G Bob Sura.

TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Magloire, 14.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg; Wesley, 4.1 apg. Rockets - McGrady, 21.8 ppg and 5.8 apg; Yao, 8.3 rpg.

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: March 11; Rockets, 97-86. At Houston, the Rockets took a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but had to quell a mild charge led by Davis, who hit 16 of his 30 points over the final 6:38 as New Orleans got the deficit down to seven with 51 seconds to play.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 1-6 on the road; Rockets - 3-5 at home.

INJURIES: Hornets - C Magloire (finger); G Davis (back); F Rogers (knee); F Jamal Mashburn (knee). Rockets - F Bostjan Nachbar (undisclosed); G Tyronn Lue (knee); G Charlie Ward (knee).

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