The Houston Rockets' 20th straight win wasn't their prettiest, but it still made coach Rick Adelman proud.
On Friday, the Rockets will try for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history when they host the Charlotte Bobcats.
Houston (44-20) beat Atlanta 83-75 on Wednesday, becoming just the third team to win 20 consecutive games. The 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks also won 20 straight, while the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won 33 in a row.
"It's unbelievable," said Tracy McGrady, who had a team-high 28 points. "For me to be on this team that has accomplished 20 straight wins, that has got to be right up there with the most gratifying things I've accomplished in this league. ... You look at the Bulls that were 72-10, they didn't even do it. So this is pretty remarkable."
The Rockets have not lost since a 97-89 defeat to Utah on Jan. 27 and are 7-0 since losing Yao Ming to a season-ending foot injury. They moved into a tie for first place with San Antonio in the Southwest Division, one game behind the Western Conference-leading Lakers.
Houston hosts the Lakers on Sunday.
"You could see the guys, it really means something to get this and just keep not only the streak going, but keep moving in the right direction," Adelman said.
However, No. 20 didn't come easy for the Rockets, who trailed 33-32 at halftime after shooting 27.9 percent in their lowest-scoring first half of the season. McGrady scored 21 points after the break.
A basket by Atlanta's Marvin Williams with 5 seconds left in the game ended the Rockets' streak of 10 straight wins by 10 or more points.
"It may be the ugliest thing we've done, but it might have been the best one," Adelman said, "the way we fought through it."
If recent history is any indication, the Rockets should have a good shot at extending their streak Friday. They've won their last four against the Bobcats (24-40) since a 111-106 double-overtime loss in Charlotte on Jan. 10, 2006.
"We just continue to have fun and play hard," guard Luther Head told the Rockets' official Web site. "We can't focus on breaking the record. We have to focus on getting better."
The Bobcats, however, have also been playing well, and had won a franchise-record five straight games before Wednesday's 118-93 loss in Dallas. Jason Richardson, who averaged 28.8 points during the winning streak, was held to 11 against the Mavericks.
"We just didn't offensively get into things as well as we have over the winning streak," coach Sam Vincent told the Bobcats' Web site. "Whether that's because these guys (Dallas) are so much better or whatever, but I didn't think we got into our stuff as crisp as we have during the period when we we've been really playing well."
Gerald Wallace returned after missing eight games because of a concussion and had 14 points in 22 minutes off the bench.
"He's going to have to play some games, and he's got to get his timing and his rhythm with the team," Vincent said.
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