9th straight loss
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New York @ Houston
83 - 90
Record: 14-35
Eddy Curry had 7 rebounds and 9 points against Houston (AP Photo)
Eddy Curry had 7 rebounds and 9 points against Houston (AP Photo)
HOUSTON (AP) - The surging Houston Rockets are finding ways to win even when Tracy McGrady has a dismal shooting night.

Yao Ming had 24 points, eight rebounds and four blocks as the Rockets overcame McGrady's awful night to beat New York 90-83 on Sunday night and win for the sixth time in seven games.

McGrady went 3-for-20 and scored seven points, the only Houston starter held below double figures. He quickly changed to his street clothes after the game and stormed past reporters without saying a word, his eyes focused on the floor in front of him.

"We're playing good basketball," said Rafer Alston , who had 14 points and seven assists. "This is a solid team effort. We just have to sustain it until the end of the year."

David Wesley added 15 points and Juwan Howard had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who've won four of their last five home games - doubling their win total at the Toyota Center this season. McGrady, who'll play in his sixth All-Star game next weekend, also had seven rebounds, six assists and four turnovers.

Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy felt good that the Rockets found a way to win with McGrady off his game.

"Our guys played with good passion," Van Gundy said. "They were really ready to play."

Quentin Richardson scored 19 points and Jamal Crawford added 15 for the Knicks. New York, which has lost nine in a row and 15 of its last 16, outrebounded Houston 45-38, but shot 37.5 percent after a good start.

"We were missing our shots and we were not able to pull it out," said Eddy Curry , who scored nine.

McGrady had trouble from the opening tip, missing his first seven attempts. He scored 25 points Saturday in a win over Utah, but has struggled with his shot for weeks, shooting 37 percent (87-for-237) in Houston's last 10 games.

"Everyone's going to have some bad nights," Yao said.

Yao suggested the victory was a fluke - that the Rockets won't win very often if McGrady plays like that. They'll find out immediately - Houston plays the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday and Phoenix on Thursday.

"If we want to beat great teams, we cannot play without Tracy," Yao said. "Our opponent did not play well tonight, so we could get the win. But the next game, we need Tracy - not a little support, but a lot of support."

McGrady swished a mid-range shot 30 seconds into the second quarter, but shot an airball from 3-point range on Houston's next possession. He went to the bench with 9:41 left in the half and the Rockets went on an 11-1 run without him.

When McGrady came back 4 minutes later, he missed three more jumpers, all off the front rim. The Knicks outscored the Rockets 17-10 after McGrady's return and trailed only 47-46 at the break.

With McGrady misfiring, Yao carried Houston in the opening half, hitting his first five shots and scoring 13 points.

"You have to get him going," Alston said. "We gave him the ball and let him operate. It's tough to stop a guy like that, who's 7-foot-6 with a nice touch and good moves around the basket."

McGrady, meanwhile, looked no better after halftime. He sank a 21-foot shot 13 seconds into the second half, but his next shot was a long jumper that barely grazed the net and went out of bounds.

Wesley tried to encourage McGrady throughout the game, to no avail. Richardson was the primary defender on McGrady, but the Knicks often sent double-teams - which left other Rockets wide open.

"I kept telling him to keep playing the game," Wesley said. "He still carried us, he still draws double teams. It's our job to knock down open shots and he got me a couple early. But he's still doing what he does, even though he's not scoring. He creates double teams and people benefit from that."

While McGrady was the only Rocket struggling, the Knicks' offensive woes were team-wide. New York missed its first seven shots after the break and Yao finished a 13-3 Rockets' spurt with a turnaround jumper and two free throws.

The Rockets led 69-60 after three quarters. McGrady was 2-for-18 at that point; the rest of his team was 21-of-34. The Knicks missed 16 of 21 shots in the third.

Van Gundy benched McGrady again with 9:41 left and the Rockets' lead down to five.

But Curry, New York's 6-11 center, fouled out with 9:03 remaining, opening up the lane for Yao and his teammates. A putback by Stromile Swift and a driving layup by Luther Head pushed Houston's lead back to 10.

"I stayed aggressive the whole game, but I got into foul trouble and it just happened," Curry said. "I have to learn to find a way to play through it."

McGrady returned with 4:17 left and sank a jumper from the free-throw line with 1:20 left, putting the Rockets up 86-75.

Notes: Yao shot 19-for-29 (65.5 percent) in Houston's back-to-back home victories this weekend. ... The Knicks' nine-game losing streak is three shy of a team record.

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