HOUSTON (AP) -- Yao Ming got all the motivation he needed just
from reading the starting lineups.
Yao Ming, right, shows some defensive prowess vs. Tim Duncan.
Matched against David Robinson and Tim Duncan, Yao scored 27
points, grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds and added a
crowd-pleasing slam in the closing minutes to lead the Rockets to
an 89-75 victory Tuesday night.
''It might have been because I knew I was going up against two
great centers,'' Yao said, explaining his performance. ''When I
first got to the NBA I had a lot to think about. To get this
victory, it's like being able to take a deep breath.''
After leading much of the game, the Rockets trailed 64-61 going
into the fourth quarter. But they quickly regained the lead and won
going away as the Spurs went scoreless over the final 2:43.
Yao rebounded a miss by Steve Francis with 3:04 to go and
slammed it home, one of several highlight shots in the game.
Francis added 18 points and six assists and Moochie Norris had 16
''He played great. He was all over the boards,'' Robinson said
of Yao. ''He shot the ball well and he moved the ball around with
his passing. He was a handful. He was the difference in the game.''
Duncan had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs, while former
Rocket Kevin Willis added 12 points.
''He was impressive tonight,'' Duncan said of Yao. ''He's got a
great touch and he's bigger in person than you think he is. He shot
the ball better than I thought he could. We had a hand in his face
and it didn't matter. He played great tonight.''
Houston built a 49-39 halftime lead on the first-half shooting
of Yao and Norris, but that 10-point edge faded in a 16-4 run by
San Antonio to start the third quarter. Duncan scored eight
consecutive Spurs points, and his two free throws gave the Spurs a
55-53 lead with 5:35 to go in the quarter.
Yao put on an entertaining show in the first half against David
Robinson and Duncan.
Yao sank a jumper over Robinson and Duncan for his second basket
of the game and drew a foul on Robinson in the process.
In the second quarter, Yao took a pass from Norris and then
passed it back to him in the lane for an easy layup. Moments later
Francis slipped a pass back to Yao under the basket for a slam.
Yao had 17 points at the half and Norris scored 12
second-quarter points to help the Rockets to their 10-point
''He played very well, obviously,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. ''He did a great job of playing a complete basketball game.
He's a natural. He's going to be a big-time force in this league.
Anyone who thought differently is few and far between now.''
The Spurs had only 11 points in the fourth quarter.
''We shot poorly in the fourth quarter,'' Popovich said. ''I
thought a lot of ways we played well. We had fewer turnovers and
got to the free-throw line more than they did. On the road, that's
normally what you need to win, but when you shoot 34 percent for
the game that isn't going to get it done.''
The Rockets' bench has scored at least 20 points in 10
consecutive games, including 40 against the Spurs. They have outscored
their counterparts seven times. ... Yao and Duncan are among six
players born outside the United States to be selected first overall
in the NBA draft. ...Rudy Tomjanovich needs one more victory to tie
Alex Hannum for 24th on the career victory list with 471.