Washington (4-6) at Houston (7-4)
November 22, 2006 8:26pm CST
The Houston Rockets are allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA, but still looking to break out offensively. They'll have a chance Wednesday against one of the league's worst defensive teams as they host the Washington Wizards at the Toyota Center. The Rockets (7-4) held their seventh opponent to fewer than 95 points in Monday's 97-90 win over the New York Knicks and have found ways to win to despite struggling offensively. Houston's defense limited New York to 37.2 percent shooting. Opponents are shooting 44.2 percent against the Rockets, who allow a league-low 91.3 points per game. The Rockets have been one of the NBA's best defensive teams in recent seasons, finishing in the top five in scoring defense in three straight seasons. They wouldn't mind the same kind of success on the offensive end. Houston ranks near the bottom of the league, averaging 95.3 points. In their four losses, the Rockets are averaging only 90.8 points. Some of Houston's offensive struggles can be attributed to the early shooting woes of all-star swingman Tracy McGrady. McGrady is averaging 19.8 points, but shooting 42.1 percent. He did come through Monday, scoring 15 of his 24 points in the second half against the Knicks and also has looked to involve his teammates more. McGrady, who has never averaged more than six assists in a season, leads the Rockets with 6.0 assists per game. He's had seven or more assists five times in Houston's first 11 games. "He's as good of a playmaker as there is in the league," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy told rockets.com. "When he starts to the basket, he's as good as anyone. He has great vision, has great decision-making skills and he's a very good passer." McGrady's unselfishness has allowed Yao Ming (26.4 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and point guard Rafer Alston (12.5 ppg) to get off to good starts. Despite his improved assist totals, McGrady insists he has not lost his scorer's mentality. "I think somewhat in the past two games that teams are trying to drill Yao a little bit too much," McGrady said, "and I've kind of been deferring too much to him in the second half, or the fourth quarter, rather. I just wanted to insert myself on the offensive end." The Rockets will be without guard Kirk Snyder -- one of their top reserves -- for the next eight to 10 weeks after he broke his hand Monday against the Knicks. He averaged 5.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in Houston's first 11 games. Washington (4-6) will try to avoid falling to 0-6 on the road this season and is off to its worst start on the road since losing its first seven road games in 1986-87. The Wizards appeared to be in good shape to end their skid Tuesday after jumping out to a nine-point lead against Dallas. However, the Wizards missed 10 straight shots in a second-half stretch and scored just 29 points the final two quarters in a 107-80 loss to the Mavericks. It was a season low in points for the Wizards, who average 101.1 points. "We tried to run them out of the gym in the first half, but it backfired," said guard Gilbert Arenas, who finished with 29 points on 9-for-25 shooting. Arenas (28.5 ppg) and forward Antawn Jamison (18.3 ppg) continue to lead one of the league's higher-scoring teams, but the Wizards are near the bottom of the NBA defensively, allowing 103.5 points per game. They've allowed at least 100 points in all but three games this season. Houston has won five of the last six meetings between the two teams, including both last season. The Rockets won the last game, 105-103 on Mar. 31 at home.