For that, the lowly Atlanta Hawks are grateful.
McGrady missed his fourth straight game and the Hawks took advantage to beat the shorthanded Rockets 94-83 on Monday, ending a four-game losing streak.
The Rockets suffered their sixth straight loss, including the last four without McGrady, who was with the team but couldn't play as he continues to recover from back spasms.
Houston fell to 0-12 without McGrady this season.
McGrady worked out before the game in what team officials said was normal conditioning work, but the Hawks had good reason to expect the high-scoring star would play.
On Nov. 29, McGrady returned after missing five games to help the Rockets beat the Hawks in Houston, ending a seven-game losing streak.
"We definitely were expecting him to play," said Joe Johnson,
who had 22 points and 10 assists. "We were happy he was out, but at the same time we still had to fight and come out and play."
Al Harrington had 28 points as the Hawks became the last NBA team to win 10 games.
"I think they are just going through the growing pains of being one of the youngest teams in the league," said Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy. "I like how their team is built."
The Hawks are 1-1 on a seven-game homestand.
"We've got to build on this," Johnson said. "It's nothing to be satisfied with. ... We are a lot better than our record. We just have to keep winning."
The Hawks took a 27-6 advantage in points off turnovers as the Rockets committed 20 turnovers, including six by Luther Head.
"I think their quickness and length had a lot to do with it," said Van Gundy of the Hawks. "Turnovers were problem No. 1. No. 2 our inability to get defensive rebounds, and No. 3 would be that Al Harrington had a good night."
Harrington made 12-of-16 shots from the field.
"We played under control," said Josh Smith, who had seven points and 11 rebounds as Atlanta took a 37-28 advantage on the boards.
"We're not getting it done when it counts," said Houston's David Wesley, who had 10 points.
"The frustration just keeps building with every game we lose. We feel like, 'This is our game, this is our game, this is our game.' We come in here, talk about the same stuff. It's frustrating," Wesley said.
Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo, averaging only 2.3 points per game, had 14 points and 10 rebounds. He matched his season high of eight points in the first period but played only two minutes in the final period.
"I thought eventually we would wear him down and make them play small ball with us, and they did," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "That was to our advantage."
The Hawks, who have had difficulty protecting leads in the fourth quarter, outscored Houston 23-18 in the final period.
"We had to pick up the intensity," said Johnson, who scored seven of Atlanta's first 11 points in the period.
"In the fourth quarter, we've had letdowns. I thought we played big in the fourth quarter today," Johnson said.
The Hawks led by only six points, 71-65, entering the final period but quickly pushed the lead to double figures.
Mutombo started as Yao Ming missed his 13th straight game since toe surgery in December.
Harrington had 13 second-period points and the Hawks led 49-39 at halftime. Houston answered with a 10-0 run early in the third period.
Harrington helped the Hawks recover. Taking Zaza Pachulia's
behind-the-back pass, Harrington scored inside, drawing Mutombo's fourth foul, and hit the free throw for a three-point play and a 67-59 lead.
Alston hit two 3-pointers late in the third quarter to keep the Rockets close. Alston and Head, who had 16 points, each made 3-of-5 3-point shots.