Coming off the bench is the best hobbling star Tracy McGrady can do to help the Houston Rockets win right now. Strong reserve play, meanwhile, hasn't helped the Seattle SuperSonics end an 11-game losing streak.
With McGrady's minutes expected to be limited again Wednesday night, the Rockets look to sweep a home-and-home series from a Sonics team in danger of matching the longest skid in franchise history.
McGrady has played a reserve role in two games after missing 11 straight contests due to a bone bruise and tendon damage in his left knee. The veteran swingman says he'll play the rest of the season in pain and is expected to come off the bench again Wednesday, according to the Rockets' official Web site.
With Houston (22-19) in 10th place in the Western Conference, McGrady would rather help his team try to earn a playoff spot than sit out more games and let the knee recover.
"It's going to be that way, because I can't rest to let it heal all the way up," he said. "It's something I'm going to have to tolerate."
McGrady had just nine points in his first game back, an 83-81 Rockets win over San Antonio on Saturday night, but bounced back to finish with 17 in a 96-89 victory over Seattle (9-32) on Monday night. He came off the bench with 5:08 left in the first quarter and added five assists despite playing with a noticeable limp through his 30 minutes on the court.
Yao Ming had 30 points and 17 rebounds and Bonzi Wells added 16 for the Rockets, winners of seven of their last nine games.
A matchup with Seattle gives Houston a good opportunity to continue its recent success. The Rockets have won four straight and 10 of 11 against the Sonics, whose 11 straight losses are the most in franchise history during a single season. Their longest skid overall was 12 in a row from the end of the 1968-69 season to the start of 1969-70.
Seattle has struggled despite getting strong production from its reserves. The Sonics are tied with the Spurs for the league's top scoring bench at 38.5 points per game.
Wally Szczerbiak leads the Seattle bench with 13.1 points a contest. He had 15 points Monday, and is averaging 18.4 in his last five games.
Rookie starting forward Kevin Durant, though, has shot poorly in three straight games. He had 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting Monday after going 10-of-39 in his previous two outings.
Durant, the second overall pick in last year's draft, says he needs to drive to the basket more.
"Every level has been difficult for me to adjust to at the beginning," said Durant, still the NBA's leading rookie scorer at 19.3 points per game. "I don't think there is any pressure. I just try to have fun, keep learning and try and progress."
Seattle hasn't been helped by poor defense, as it's allowed an average of 113.5 points in its last four games and 105.1 on the season.
With 6-foot-9 Kurt Thomas starting at center, the Sonics may again have trouble guarding Yao.
The 7-6 center shot 12-for-19 from the field Monday en route to reaching the 30-point mark for the seventh time this season. Yao is averaging 27.0 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 90.0 percent from the free-throw line in his last six games versus Seattle.
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