Rockets blasting off without their All-Star

WASHINGTON -- No sense in waiting around for Tracy McGrady to return. The Houston Rockets are winning without him these days.

Luther Head's season-high 24 points and Rafer Alston's double-double Tuesday night led Houston past the Washington Wizards 92-84, the Rockets' third consecutive victory.

"We've been down this road before. We're prepared. Guys aren't hesitant now, like previous years when Tracy was out," said Alston, who finished with 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. "Guys are coming in confident, understanding they have to be aggressive and attack the basket."

Yao Ming scored 21 points for Houston, which is 5-2 since McGrady went down last month with a left knee injury.

McGrady, sitting on the sideline in a jacket and tie, will be checked out by the Rockets' medical staff Thursday to determine when he'll be able to return.

"If we can get everybody else with their confidence to a higher level, when he comes back it just has to help us as a team," Houston coach Rick Adelman said.

As Head said: "When McGrady comes back, we'll have something to build on."

But what are the Rockets like without their leading scorer?

"Quicker. They play quicker. They probably move the ball a little bit better," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "Tracy's a tremendous player, but I'm sure they have a scheme without him and the scheme was to push it, play up-tempo, drive it and move the basketball."

The Wizards also had a star scorer in street clothes, of course: Gilbert Arenas, out perhaps another two months after left knee surgery. But the two past All-Stars who have been leading the team in his absence, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, were quite quiet Tuesday.

Jamison was held to 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting, and Butler scored 12 on 5-for-16 shooting, part of a 41-percent night for Washington.

Former Modesto Christian star Chuck Hayes had six points for the Rockets on 3-of-3 shooting. Entering the game, he was averaging 23 minutes per game, 3.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.

LAKERS 117, GRIZZLIES 101, at Memphis, Tenn. -- Derek Fisher -- not Kobe Bryant -- led Los Angeles in scoring with 26 points in a victory over Memphis. Bryant had 25 for the Lakers, who won for the 13th time in 16 games.

BOBCATS 115, NETS 99, at Charlotte, N.C. -- Jason Richardson scored 25 points, and Charlotte overcame Jason Kidd's third consecutive triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) to beat New Jersey. The Bobcats snapped a three-game skid while ending the Nets' five-game winning streak.

CAVALIERS 95, SUPERSONICS 79, at Cleveland -- LeBron James scored 22 points and was able to sit out the final 8:36 as Cleveland coasted to its sixth win in seven games, knocking off Seattle. The Cavaliers moved over .500 for the first time since Nov. 30.

JAZZ 111, PACERS 89, at Salt Lake City -- Carlos Boozer scored 22 points and Utah handed Indiana its worst loss of the season. The Pacers' worst loss before Tuesday was a 20-point loss to the Lakers (134-114 at Indianapolis on Nov. 20). The Jazz improved to 13-3 at home.

TIMBERWOLVES 101, HEAT 91, at Minneapolis -- Rashad McCants continued his hot shooting with 27 points, and Minnesota snapped an eight-game losing streak by defeating Miami. McCants topped 20 points for the third consecutive game.

KNICKS 105, BULLS 100, at Chicago -- Eddy Curry scored a season-high 29 points, and New York rallied to beat Chicago and snap a seven-game losing streak. The Knicks trailed by 13 early in the fourth but stormed back and ended the game with a 14-2 run.

BUCKS 87, 76ERS 83, at Philadelphia -- Charlie Bell and Mo Williams scored 21 points for Milwaukee, which has won three of four in the new year. Philadelphia has lost four straight.