Daily Confidential

In the midst of a brutal road stretch, the Houston Rockets will play their fourth game in five days on Saturday, but at least their two biggest stars will be relatively rested when they take on the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center.

The Rockets (13-6) improved to 8-1 against Eastern Conference teams with a 92-62 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday. The victory, which ran Houston's road record to 5-5, was so easy that Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming both got to rest for most of the fourth quarter.

McGrady scored 23 points while Yao added 21 before they headed to the bench with the game well in hand.

``I was praying for one of those games where we didn't have to play the fourth quarter,'' McGrady said. ``I really felt good, offensively and defensively.''

The Rockets weren't particularly impressive offensively, but they didn't need to be. The 62 points allowed were a franchise low. Houston also outrebounded Charlotte 51-46 and scored 21 points off Bobcats turnovers.

``It's just shows what type of team we can be if we bring that type of approach every night,'' McGrady said. ``You just don't have it offensively some nights. But from a defensive standpoint we can definitely be great night in and night out.''

This is part of a stretch of eight road games out of 10 for Houston. Following Saturday's game against Washington, the Rockets return home to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday before beginning a five-game road trip two days later.

This is the second and final meeting between the Rockets and Wizards this season. Houston defeated Washington 86-82 on Nov. 22, as Yao had 25 points and 14 rebounds while McGrady added 13 points and 12 boards.

The Rockets have won six of the last seven meetings between the teams, with the lone exception a 101-98 defeat March 2, 2005, at the Verizon Center. Washington has not defeated Houston by more than a three-point margin since winning 103-92 at home on Dec. 26, 1999.

The last time the two teams met, Washington (9-10) was in the midst of a season-high four-game losing streak. Since then, the Wizards have won five of six, including a 113-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

Although Philadelphia was playing without star Allen Iverson, the Wizards trailed by as many as 20 points in the second quarter. Washington rallied back, though, going on an 18-2 run in the third to take control of the contest.

``It was a struggle at first. The shots just weren't going down,'' said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan. ``We were calm throughout. I thought we had a chance.''

Gilbert Arenas scored 32 points - the third straight game and fourth in the last five that he's scored at least 30 - while Caron Butler added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

The Wizards, who are playing the next three games at home, have won a season-high three straight overall. Washington is 7-2 at the Verizon Center this season.

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