NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, December 16th (All times eastern)
Houston Rockets (14-10) at Denver Nuggets (18-7), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Rockets welcomed back a familiar face to their lineup in Houston on Tuesday night as the club attempts to navigate through one of its toughest stretches of the season.
Former All-Star Tracy McGrady saw limited time in his season debut and rookie Chase Budinger recorded 16 points and 12 rebounds in his first career start, part of the Rockets' 107-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Now, McGrady and Company hope to keep things moving in a positive direction when Houston visits the Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets on Wednesday in the first of four back-to-back games over the next two weeks.
After tonight's contest Houston will visit Dallas on Friday, Dec. 18 before a home engagement with Oklahoma City on Saturday. The team then toils on consecutive nights twice more during Christmas week, playing the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Dec. 22 and Orlando on the road on Dec. 23, before road games against New Jersey (Dec. 26) and Cleveland (Dec. 27).
McGrady, who hadn't played since Feb. 9 due to microfracture surgery on his left knee, came into last night's game with just under eight minutes remaining in the first quarter. He received a standing ovation upon entering the contest to replace Budinger, who started in place of the suspended Trevor Ariza.
"It really sent chills to my body, knowing that they appreciate what I've done in the past and that they're glad to see me back on the basketball court," said McGrady. "It felt good."
The only bucket for the seven-time All-Star came on a three-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:33 left in the first quarter. He also missed a pair of free throws and had three rebounds, while playing the final 7:44 of the first quarter. McGrady didn't play the final three quarters.
"I didn't get tired at all, surprisingly," said McGrady. "I thought I would be. I actually could have kept playing."
Aaron Brooks had 23 points and 10 assists for the Rockets, who won for the third time in four games. Luis Scola registered a season-best 23 points to go with eight boards, while Carl Landry came off the bench for 19 points in the win.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, keep rolling along. Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points on Monday, as Denver posted a 102-93 victory over the Thunder at Pepsi Center.
In a duel between teams led by young stars, Anthony's performance was essentially equaled by Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, who ended with 32 points and 10 rebounds.
But the Nuggets' surrounding cast outplayed that of the Thunder, particularly the bench. J.R. Smith ended with 19 points while Chris Andersen ended with 15 points and 11 boards for Denver, which has won two in a row and 21 of their last 22 home games dating back to last season.
The Nuggets, who made 34-of-40 free throws, also got 13 points from Nene along with 12 points and seven assists from Chauncey Billups.
"This is one of the better games where we didn't give them any hope," said Nuggets coach George Karl. "We didn't give them a lot of confidence. We didn't bust the game out like maybe we wanted to, but sustaining it, on film it will show we did a lot of good things."
The Rockets took three of four games with Denver last season and have won nine of the last 13 contests in the series.
12/16 10:31:20 ET