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Sura, T-Mac give Houston early liftoff

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets didn't even need Juwan Howard
to rout the slumping Portland Trail Blazers.

Playing their first game without their starting power forward,
David Wesley and Bob Sura scored 21 points each to lead the Rockets
to their sixth straight win, 108-77 over the Portland Trail Blazers
on Wednesday night.

Houston, which had its largest margin of victory this season,
took the lead midway through the first quarter with a 10-2 run, and
Portland never threatened again.

Howard, who was averaging 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, is out at
least four weeks after spraining his right knee Monday. Clarence
Weatherspoon got his first start for the Rockets and had two points
and four rebounds.

"We didn't focus on him not being there," Wesley said. "We
just focused on what we could do. Everybody has to do it
collectively. What we miss from him we have to make up by everyone
else doing a good solid job."

It was the Rockets' first game back home after sweeping a
four-game road trip over some of the best teams in the West,
including Phoenix and Seattle.

Tracy McGrady added 19 points and six assists and Yao Ming had
13 points and seven rebounds.

Sura was a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line and went
3-of-4 on 3-point attempts.

"He has a certain toughness and intensity that every team
needs," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He can shoot the 3,
and every team challenges him to make 3s. Hopefully he can continue
to do it."

Houston was 36-of-71 from the field and 8-of-16 from 3-point
range.

"When you shoot the ball that well and you have Yao Ming on the
team, there is really no chance of beating them," Portland coach
Kevin Pritchard said. "They have so many pieces."

Wesley, who was 2-of-3 from 3-point range, has scored 20 points
in three of the last four games.

"We have a deep team," Sura said. "We've been able to suffer
some injuries and been able to get through it."

Shareef Abdur-Rahim led Portland with 20 points and Joel
Przybilla had 18. About the only bright spot for the Trail Blazers
was their free throw shooting, where they made 20 of 23. Portland
was 26-of-74 from the field.

"Our defense is our offense," Yao said. "When our guards
shoot that well, it puts a great deal of pressure on our opponents
to guard the perimeter. They have to use a lot of energy on defense
and that makes things easier for us."

Portland has lost nine of its last 11 games.

"It hurts now and it stinks that we are losing," Pritchard
said. "We are all struggling with the losses."

This winning streak is the Rockets' second-longest of the season
after winning eight consecutive games in February.

Game notes
Howard attended Wednesday's game on crutches, vowing to
return in time for the playoffs. "We don't need anything like this
to happen now," Howard said. "It's very frustrating and tough for
me to deal with. But I'm going to work very hard to get back." ...
Weatherspoon became the 16th player to start for the Rockets this
season. ...Trail Blazers forward Theo Ratliff missed the second
half with a stomach virus. He had three rebounds in 13 minutes in
the first half. ... Portland's Darius Miles missed his second
straight game to be with his mother, who is having major surgery in
Portland this week. ...The Rockets are 14 games over .500 for the
first time since the 1996-97 season.