Daily Confidential

Six-time All-Star Tracy McGrady has assumed a new role with the Houston Rockets, and the results have been outstanding.

McGrady and the Rockets look to win their fourth straight game when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at the Toyota Center.

Houston (9-4) has won eight of its last 10 games, and defeated Memphis 85-76 on Saturday behind another stellar game from McGrady, who finished with 19 points and tied his career high with 13 assists.

He's averaging 19 points this season - six below his career points per game - but is also averaging 6.7 assists, more than two per game above his 4.4 career mark.

``It's fun to see your teammates want the ball on the other side,'' McGrady said. ``I take a lot of pride and passion in doing that. I'm trying to make these guys better.''

Yao Ming has benefited most of all from McGrady's passes. The center scored 28 points against the Grizzlies, and is averaging 26.4 points per game - four more than last season.

The Rockets improved to 5-1 at the Toyota Center with Saturday's victory, after being tied with New York, Portland and Toronto for the worst home record last season at 15-26.

They have also won three straight at home, but have dropped their last four meetings in Houston with the Timberwolves (6-7). Minnesota is just 2-5 on the road this season, though, averaging only 88 points in those contests.

The Rockets have also been one of the best defensive teams this year, holding opponents to just 42.8 percent shooting - third-lowest in the league. They held Memphis to 37.7 percent from the field, and Houston's opponents are connecting on just 36 percent of their shots during te Rockets' current three-game win streak.

``When we defend and when we play defense like that, everything else is going to come,'' guard Luther Head said. ``Coach (Jeff Van Gundy) tells us that we're not going to have the best offense all the time and we're not going to make shots all the time, so our defense will keep us in the game.''

The defense has helped put Houston in position to win its 10th game on Tuesday, a total it didn't reach until Dec. 18 of last season in its 23rd game.

The Timberwolves lost to Dallas 93-87 on Monday, ending a three-game winning streak as their second straight comeback bid came up short.

Minnesota rallied from a 15-point deficit to tie the game at 84 with 2:34 remaining, but couldn't take the lead. The Timberwolves had erased a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

``We competed,'' Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. ``We were consistently trying to get to the basket in the second half. We had three good looks after it was tied, but we couldn't put a shot down. ... We gave ourselves a chance to win. But we're not satisfied with being close.''

Kevin Garnett had 19 points and 12 rebounds against the Mavericks, and has recorded double-doubles in all but two games this season.

Garnett averaged 22 points and 12.3 rebounds in three games against the Rockets last season.

Mike James broke out of a scoreless, 0-for-9 slump over his previous two games with 10 points on Monday. James is averaging 11.3 points this season, and scored 49 points in two games against Houston last season while playing for Toronto.

The Rockets and Minnesota split four meetings last year, with each game decided by six points or fewer.

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