Tracy McGrady is adjusting well to his new role for the Houston Rockets, which could be bad news for the recently inconsistent Portland Trail Blazers.
Coming off his best game since an extended absence, McGrady looks to continue helping the Rockets off the bench when they visit the Trail Blazers on Friday.
The Rockets (23-19) have won three straight and eight of 10, including a 109-107 victory over Seattle on Wednesday. McGrady scored 28 points on 13-of-23 shooting while Yao Ming added 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
McGrady has increased his scoring in each of his last three games after missing the previous 11 with a left knee injury. He had nine points in a win over San Antonio last Saturday and 17 in a victory over Seattle on Monday.
"After playing a couple games on the knee, I felt like tonight, I was going to come out and be aggressive," McGrady told the Rockets' official Web site. "It really showed late in the last game I just got to play through it. Don't even think about it. I just came out there with that mentality."
McGrady, who has come off the bench since returning, scored 18 points in the second half Wednesday. With Houston up by one with 1:27 remaining, he scored Houston's next five points and added an assist on Rafer Alston's 3-pointer that gave the Rockets a four-point lead with 19 seconds left.
McGrady admits that he's still having some pain in the knee, but is trying to work though it while adjusting to being a reserve.
"I got to approach the game with a different mentality," he said. "But when I'm in there, I'm just trying to win."
While McGrady and the Rockets have put together a solid stretch, Portland has started to have trouble stringing together victories.
Since winning 17 of 18 from Dec. 3-Jan. 9, the Blazers (25-17) have gone 3-4, alternating losses and wins in those seven games. They're coming off a 96-81 defeat to New Orleans on Wednesday.
Portland got off to a hot start in the first quarter, shooting 53 percent, but shot 35 percent (20-of-57) the rest of the way and blew an early 12-point lead.
Leading scorer Brandon Roy, who came in averaging 19.3 points, had just 14 - nine coming in the opening period.
"Defensively, they did a great job taking the ball out of my hands," Roy said. "There were a lot of situations where they forced someone else to make a play. It was frustrating at times. I think we got tired a little bit. We settled for a lot of jump shots and they were just a more physical team tonight."
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 17 points while Steve Blake hit four 3-pointers and finished with 15.
The Blazers have averaged 95.5 points in their last six games after averaging 104.1 in the previous eight.
Houston beat Portland 89-80 on Nov. 3. The Rockets have won 12 of the last 16 meetings, including five of eight on the road.
McGrady has not played in three of his team's last seven trips to Portland because of injuries, but he's averaged 27.3 points in his previous four games there.
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