HOUSTON (AP) -- Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy didn't see
much to like in his team's latest preseason win.
"That was horrific, it was abominable, it was unwatchable,"
Van Gundy said after the Rockets beat the Washington Wizards 75-71
Yao Ming scored 20 points in 24 minutes and Juwan Howard added
14 points as Houston improved to 5-1.
Van Gundy has been warning for more than a week that the
Rockets' preseason record is deceiving -- that the victories are
masking serious deficiencies.
"We looked old tonight. Somehow, we've got to find some life to
us," he said.
His players are starting to agree. Tracy McGrady scored only two
points on a pair of free throws and watched almost all of the
second half from the bench.
"It wasn't fun to watch, I'll tell you," McGrady said. "We've
still got a long way to go to get ourselves together."
As bad as the Rockets looked, the Wizards were worse, shooting
36 percent (26 of 72) and losing for the fifth time in seven
But coach Eddie Jordan saw more positives from his team than Van
Gundy saw from his. Jordan praised the Wizards' defense and thought
they improved in their offensive execution.
"We accomplished a lot of our goals tonight," Jordan said.
"We just didn't win the game."
Caron Butler went 8-of-14 from the field and scored 22 points
for the Wizards (2-5). Butler, acquired from the Lakers in August,
likes the new offensive system he's joining.
"This is working out just as I expected. You have to crawl
before you walk," Butler said. "But this is becoming fun. Coach
Jordan is putting me in great situations."
Chucky Atkins added 19 points and eight rebounds for the
Stromile Swift had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Rockets,
who bounced back from an 82-78 loss at Memphis the previous night.
Van Gundy used mostly reserves in the fourth quarter. McGrady
left the game with 8:54 left in the third quarter and Yao's night
ended about 5 minutes later.
Luther Head's fastbreak layup with 8:23 left gave the Rockets a
63-58 lead, but Atkins scored five points and Jared Jeffries sank a
long jumper during the Wizards' 11-5 spurt.
Swift picked up a loose ball and dunked to put the Rockets up
for good, at 71-69. Rafer Alston's layup a minute later pushed the
lead to four.
Atkins made a steal and Antonio Daniels' layup trimmed the
deficit back to two. But Head sank a fadeaway jumper with 8.3
seconds left for the final margin.
Both teams mustered their lowest point totals of the preseason.
"We're one step closer to the regular season," Van Gundy said.
"That's the only progress either team made tonight."
The Rockets led 15-10 after an opening quarter in which the
teams combined to miss 24 of 32 shots. Swift drew the loudest cheer
of the opening half when he sank a two-handed desperation heave
from 70 feet just after the first-quarter buzzer sounded.
The Rockets built a nine-point lead, but the Wizards ended the
half with a 9-2 run to trail 38-36 at halftime.