WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (Ticker) -- Tracy McGrady came out firing early, then eliminated the Washington Wizards' hopes late.

McGrady scored 23 of his 38 points in the first half and got some help in the second as the Houston Rockets ended a five-game losing streak with a resounding 123-111 triumph over the Wizards.

NBA TV highlights from
"We wanted to establish the tempo and set the tone for this game," McGrady said. "The first five minutes was real pivotal for us and I think we did a great job of establishing that tempo."

Houston managed to overcome 44 points from Washington's Gilbert Arenas, who eclipsed 40 for the fifth time this season.

"Gilbert has really come a long ways and really stepped up his game," McGrady said. "When I was back in Orlando and I faced him, he had 40 that night when I had 62 and we were going at it. Tonight, I wasn't trying to make it a scoring duel between the two of us. I just wanted to get this win because it was badly needed. I got some help from my guys tonight, and I got an opportunity to rest."

In the first half, McGrady went 8-of-12 from the floor, including two 3-pointers, as the Rockets shot 58 percent (22-of-38) and opened a 57-46 advantage.

Arenas, who made 13-of-25 shots, drained a 3-pointer with 3:32 remaining to cut the deficit to 109-101, but Washington got no closer.

McGrady's jumper on the next possession rebuilt the lead to double digits and Rafer Alston's shot from behind the arc made it 114-103 with 2:33 remaining.

"You know T-Mac is going to put up numbers, but their other guys beat us, too," Arenas said. "We just have to play harder as a team to get it done."

"It really helped me in a way where I rarely get any rest in the games," said McGrady, who played 36 minutes. "I'm always playing 44 or 48 minutes. Sometimes I never come out of the games. Tonight, with the guys contributing and making shots and playing well, I had a opportunity to rest and really sit down and gather myself so when I came in the fourth quarter I was fresh and able to close out the game."

Former Wizard Juwan Howard made 10 of his last 11 shots and scored a season-high 24 points.

"It was a game that we had to come out and win, no if and or buts about it," Howard said. "It was very pleasing and satisfying to beat a team that's played very well at home. Hopefully with this victory tonight, we can start something special on this road trip."

Alston, playing in his second game since returning from a fractured leg, scored 10 straight points in the third quarter and finished with season highs of 17 points and 10 assists.

Caron Butler scored 20 points and Antawn Jamison added 17 and eight rebounds for Washington, which has lost three in a row. Despite 23 points from Arenas, Washington shot just 37 percent (16-of-43) in the first half.

"When McGrady gets it going, you have to double-team him," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "No one can defend him 1-on-1. We tried different schemes against them and Juwan Howard made his shots. ... We are defensively challenged. We have got to continue to work on that."

Houston held a 26-point lead, its largest, with 5:41 left in the third period.