ATLANTA — The Houston Rockets became the third team in NBA history to win 20 consecutive games, tying for the league’s second-longest winning streak with an 83-75 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
The Rockets joined the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33 straight) and 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20) as the only teams to win 20 or more in a row.
Tracy McGrady scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half and Shane Battier had 15 points as Houston struggled to preserve their winning streak. They were held to their lowest first-half total during the span and trailed 33-32 at halftime.
A basket by Atlanta’s Marvin Williams with 5 seconds left in the game ended the Rockets’ streak of 10 straight wins by 10 or more points. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 28 points, and Josh Smith had 16 points and a career-high 22 rebounds.
With the Rockets leading 71-70 with 5 minutes remaining, McGrady scored five points in Houston’s 10-0 run to take control.
Houston led 59-57 at the end of the third quarter, but Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia opened the fourth with two free throws. Minutes later, he was called for a technical foul after arguing an offensive foul. Battier made the free throw to give the Rockets a 66-62 lead.
Atlanta closed to 71-70 when Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola scored on back-to-back baskets.
After Smith was denied inside, McGrady stretched the lead to 77-70 with a jumper which bounced twice on the rim before falling through the net. McGrady added a 3-pointer with 1:53 left for an 81-70 lead to cap the 10-0 run.
Houston allowed only 89.3 points per game during its 19 straight wins and it set a low scoring pace against the Hawks, who responded to the challenge with strong defense.
McGrady made only two of 10 shots from the field and three of six free throws in the first half as the Rockets shot only 27.9 percent from the field.
Despite a combined 31 rebounds by Smith and Al Horford, the Rockets held a 56-52 edge on the boards and an 18-15 advantage in second-chance points.
Houston has held two straight opponents to 75 or fewer points, following a 91-73 win over New Jersey on Monday.
Notes: The Rockets were without F Carl Landry (sore right knee), who remained in Houston. ... Hawks PG Acie Law (sprained right wrist) returned after missing 11 consecutive games. ... Hawks PG Mike Bibby made only three of 12 shots for 12 points. ... The Rockets committed only eight turnovers, including only one by point guard Rafer Alston, who had a game-high seven assists. ... Hayes had 12 points off the bench.