The Houston Rockets opened a five-game stretch against some of the NBA's toughest teams with the second-longest winning streak in league history.

They'll be happy to close it with back-to-back victories.

After bouncing back from consecutive defeats, the Rockets hope to finish the brutal stretch with a win as they visit the streaking Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

Houston (47-22) had won 21 in a row coming into perhaps the toughest five-game stretch on its schedule. The Rockets extended their remarkable run by beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, but suffered back-to-back blowouts against Boston and at New Orleans.

Houston was outscored 105-59 in the second halves of those games.

On Friday, however, the Rockets got back in the win column by holding off Golden State 109-106. Bobby Jackson and Carl Landry came off the bench to score 16 and 17 points, respectively, as Houston pulled within one game of the Western Conference-leading Lakers.

"This is an insane race," said Rockets forward Shane Battier, who added 17 points. "You can't even begin to worry about it. You just have to win games. At the end of the day, if you win enough you'll be in the right spot."

While the bench scoring was one key to the victory, the Rockets were no doubt just as happy to see Tracy McGrady regain his form. McGrady was held to 23 points on 10-of-32 shooting in the back-to-back losses, but rebounded with 26, eight rebounds and eight assists while going 11-for-23 from the field Friday.

"We just had energy," said McGrady, who's averaging 22.9 points and shooting 45.1 percent in Houston's wins, compared to 18.5 points and 39.3 percent in the losses. "We had a lot more energy than we did the last two games. We did a better job executing and moving the ball. This was a big win."

Houston will likely need a similar performance from McGrady to keep up with Phoenix (46-22), which has put together its longest winning streak since November, quieting some critics who questioned the acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal in February.

The Suns were 3-6 in O'Neal's first nine games, but have won their last six to put pressure on the West's top teams. They're currently the fifth seed - 1 1/2 games behind the Lakers.

The Suns overcame a season-high 27 turnovers to beat Seattle 110-98 on Wednesday, and are hoping to win seven straight for the first time since their season-high eight-game run from Nov. 9-23.

But the victory was costly. Phoenix guard Raja Bell crumpled to the court when he landed on a Seattle player's foot on a 3-point attempt. X-rays were negative and the Suns said Bell had a mild-to-moderate ankle sprain. He's expected to miss this game, and be day-to-day after that.

Bell was averaging 14.0 points and shooting 52.1 percent (25-for-48) from 3-point range in his last eight games.

Bell is also known for playing great defense, which Phoenix will surely miss when trying to match up with McGrady. Bell was the primary defender on McGrady when the Suns held him to 18 points and 7-for-19 shooting on Nov. 28, but the Rockets won that game 100-94.

Phoenix won the teams' previous meeting 115-105 on Nov. 17 in Houston - its 12th victory in the last 16 games in the series.


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