Trevor Ariza, making the move from the Lakers this season, scored a career high 33 points, Aaron Brooks added 28 points and the Rockets held on to beat the Portland Trail Blazers at home for the fifth straight time in regular season, 111-107 Saturday night.
"I know it was an important game for us," Ariza said. "They [Portland] are one of the better teams in the West with a lot of talent, too. It was bigger for us to win at home tonight."
Yao is out for the season following foot surgery and McGrady is recovering from knee surgery, leaving the Rockets to find ways to win games without their big guys.
"We've got a pretty young team and we've got a bunch of new faces on this team so the scouting report is not that big," Carl Landry said. "We've got guys that are hungry who are going out there every night and fighting hard to get us in the 'W' column."
Houston had to overcome a 42-point performance by Brandon Roy and a determined Trail Blazers offense that kept the game close to the end.
"Ariza and Brooks did whatever they wanted," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "They controlled the ball and made their shots."
Ariza's previous career high was 26 points last March 15 for the Los Angeles Lakers against Dallas.
The Rockets hit 12-of-24 3-point baskets and shot 50.6 percent overall for the game. Ariza was 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
Ariza started 20 games for the Lakers last season. He expects to see more playing time with the Rockets. He already likes the fast pace.
"If that's what it takes for us to win then that is how we need to play," Ariza said. "No matter how tired we are, no matter what the situation is or what the odds are. If we want to win, we have to play that way every night."
Houston led 59-54 at the half and never lost the lead. Portland got to 87-84 early in the fourth quarter but never could push ahead. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points for the Trail Blazers and Andre Miller had 15.
Brooks' 28 points missed his career high of 30 last March 6 against Phoenix.
The Rockets led by 11 early in the second quarter and they were up 54-44 with 2:20 remaining in the first half. Roy had eight second quarter points, including a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch to keep it close at the half with the Rockets leading 59-54.
"Right from the start, we were in trouble giving up 33 points in the first quarter," McMillan said. "Our transition game is important and we never controlled the ball. Houston got to the basket and made their shots."
Ariza broke loose with 16 first quarter points to get the Rockets started. He was 6-for-6 from 2-point range and hit both 3-pointers, and the Rockets eased to a 33-28 first quarter lead.
Aldridge hit his first five shots, and the Trail Blazers took the early lead, hitting 12 of their first 14 points in the paint.
The Rockets knocked the Trail Blazers out of the playoffs last year with a 4-2 series win in the first round.
"Our defense was not very good, right now we're not giving much effort on the defensive end and that's where it starts," Roy said. "It doesn't seem like our effort is there. I see a team that's stinking too much right now."
Rockets coach Rick Adelman still ranks as the second winningest coach in Trail Blazers history (291-154) behind Jack Ramsay. Portland's loss to Denver on Thursday came despite a 43-42 halftime Trail Blazer lead. Portland was unbeaten (26-0) last season when leading at halftime at the Rose Garden. Portland plays 19 back-to-backs this season. They were 23-4 last year in the second game of back-to-backs.