Nets Travel to Houston

When the Houston Rockets learned that All-Star center Yao Ming would miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his foot, the team's winning streak, then at 12 games, seemed sure to end quickly.

Six more victories later, the Rockets are on the verge of joining some very exclusive company.

The Rockets will try to become only the fourth team in NBA history to win 19 consecutive games Monday when they host the struggling New Jersey Nets.

Oddsmakers from have made Houston –13 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 193 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston -13 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Houston's 12 straight victories had merely moved it to the fringe of the playoff race in the loaded Western Conference, and when Yao went down Feb. 26, many believed the Rockets had little chance of completing their run to the postseason.

Instead, the Rockets (42-20) have been more dominant in the six wins without Yao than they were in the 12 that their 7-foot-6 center, who averaged 22.0 points and 10.8 rebounds this season, played. Houston won the first 12 by an average of 10.1 points, compared to 17.2 in the last six.

With a 106-96 win over fellow West contender New Orleans on Saturday, the Rockets moved into third place in the conference behind 41 points from Tracy McGrady.

"I understood how big this game was," McGrady told the team's official Web site. "Coach (Rick Adelman) told us at the end of shootaround that if we were to win this game, it would move us to the third spot and I told him that there was extra motivation right there. I was just ready to go."

McGrady is averaging 26.6 points and 6.4 assists in the last eight games. The Rockets have won nine straight by double figures - one shy of tying an NBA record set by the 2003-04 Nets - and have taken 12 straight at home.

With a victory over New Jersey (26-37) in the first of three straight games against East opponents with losing records, the Rockets can accomplish something that Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers, Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls or Larry Bird's Boston Celtics couldn't - win 19 in a row.

The 1999-2000 Lakers were the last team to win 19 straight. The Rockets became just the seventh team to win 18 in a row, and five of the previous six have gone on to win the NBA championship.

That is what the Rockets are thinking about.

"Our concentration and focus is really all about the playoffs,'' said McGrady, who has never won a postseason series. "We've had pretty good runs in the regular season. It's all about the playoffs with us.

"The streak is great. We'll make a little history. But it really doesn't mean anything.''

Rafer Alston has given Houston an excellent second option behind McGrady, averaging 15.4 points during the win streak and 21.7 in his last three games.

The Rockets may have to face New Jersey without rookie forward Carl Landry, who has averaged 13.8 points in his last five contests but sat out Saturday with a swollen knee.

The Nets haven't won in March, dropping their first five games by an average of 11.8 points, yet are just a half-game behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.

New Jersey lost 111-91 at Dallas on Saturday, its first game against the Mavericks since dealing Jason Kidd to them last month. Kidd had 13 assists, while point guard Devin Harris, the main player received by the Nets in the trade, finished with nine points and two assists.

"I think we're a little stagnant right now,'' said Harris, who had averaged 18.4 points in his first five games with New Jersey. "It's kind of hurting when we only get 12 assists and that ball is not moving like it should.''

Nets leading scorer Richard Jefferson had 29 points in New Jersey's first meeting with Houston on Dec. 7, but the Rockets won 96-89. Yao had 25 points and McGrady added 24.

Houston has won three straight and six of the last seven in the series.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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