The Rockets have been on an incredible streak since they last saw the Lakers on Nov. 14 in Texas. Despite losing Yao Ming to injury for the remainder of the season halfway through their astonishing 21-game win streak–now the second longest in NBA history–the Rockets have continue to dominate opponents on both ends of the floor. Heading into tomorrow afternoon’s showdown, Houston is tied with the Lakers atop the Western Conference playoff standings at 45-20.
In the first meeting of the season in L.A’s home opener, the Rockets defeated the Lakers to stave off an almost stunning Lakers comeback from 10 points down with a minute and half to go. However, despite Kobe Bryant’s late-game heroics, the Lakers fell 95-95 after a clutch basket by Shane Battier. In their rematch two weeks later, L.A. narrowly defeated the Rockets 93-90 behind Bryant’s 30 points.
Without Ming, filling his enormous void has been a team effort, with Tracy McGrady leading the charge with more than 22 points, five rebounds and six assists a night. Rafer Alston has also stepped up in Yao’s absence, with almost 13 points a game. The Rockets also get strong contributions from Luis Scola, Shane Battier, Carl Landry and Luther Head. More important than stats however, Houston’s awe-inspiring streak is largely due to their unwavering energy. With so much at stake in tomorrow’s game, there’s no reason to expect anything different.