Injuries have long stood between the Houston Rockets and the kind of success they thought they could achieve. They hope their inability to stay healthy doesn't interfere with their dominance of the Atlanta Hawks in Houston.After Ron Artest joined the team's long list of injured players in a frustrating loss, the Rockets hope to overcome their injury woes as they go for their 10th straight home win against the Hawks on Tuesday night.
Injuries to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady have derailed some promising seasons for Houston over the last three years. The Rockets (13-8) brought in Artest over the summer to provide some insurance for Houston's injury-prone stars, and he started the first 20 games before missing Monday's 109-97 loss to Memphis with a sore right ankle.
Artest, who's day-to-day, sat alongside McGrady, who's out for several more weeks with complications stemming from offseason knee surgery. Brent Barry was also out with a muscle tear in his right leg, and Houston had only 10 players in uniform.
The Rockets hope their injury problems don't get in the way of their home success against the Hawks (12-7), who have lost 15 of their last 16 in Houston, including nine straight since their 93-87 victory Feb. 25, 1999.
Atlanta has shot below 40.0 percent from the field in each of its last four games at the Toyota Center, combining for a 36.4 percentage in that stretch.
Hawks forward Josh Smith credits the 7-foot-6 Yao for at least part of his team's recent struggles against the Rockets.
"It's kinda funny, because you think you're tall, then you go out there and you're looking up at him," the 6-foot-9 Smith told the Hawks' official Web site Monday. "He's looking down on everybody. It's definitely a challenge."
The Hawks shot 35.5 percent from the field in losing both games against the Rockets last season. It was their lowest percentage against any team in 2007-08.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta's leading scorer with 23.1 points per game, averaged 18.0 against Houston last season, but was just 12-for-37 (32.4 percent).
Johnson could fare better against a Rockets team that fared poorly without two of its best players Monday. Artest, the 2003-04 Defensive Player of the Year who's perennially near the top of the league in steals per game, was especially missed on the defensive end. The Rockets gave up 32 first-quarter points, allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 51.3 percent from the field and trailed the entire game.
"They were the aggressors all the way," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "I don't think we shared the ball very well. Guys were trying to do too much on their own and weren't moving the ball around. I think it was the whole team. We just seemed to be out of sync."
The Rockets hope for a better performance against the Hawks, who lost to Dallas 100-98 on Saturday night. Atlanta went on a 24-8 run in the fourth quarter, but couldn't overcome a 19-point deficit.
"We made plays down the stretch," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "But we had that 16-point third quarter that put us behind. You can't spot this team like that."
Hawks center Al Horford didn't play in that game because of an ankle injury, but could return to the lineup against Houston.