HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets are on a roll. And they hope
it continues into the playoffs.
Strong inside play from Yao Ming and some hot 3-point shooting
led Houston to its sixth straight victory and its 50th win of the
season Monday night, 115-90 over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Rockets clinched fifth place in the Western Conference and
will face Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.
Yao had 24 points and Tracy McGrady added 16 points and 10
assists for the Rockets who had their first 50-win season since
"The passion we've been playing with the last three games has
really been good," Rockets guard David Wesley said. "When we play
as good as we can, it's good enough to beat most teams."
The Rockets scored a season-high 40 points in the first quarter
on 76 percent shooting (16-of-21), including 5-of-6 from 3-point
range. Wesley, who was 4-of-4 in the quarter with two 3s, finished
with 13 points and five assists.
"We ran into a team that was very hot and shot the ball very
well," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Yao got too deep on us
and he'll score on anybody in that position."
Yao was 10-of-14 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw
The Rockets lost three straight before starting their current
"We went through our little slump as a team," James said. "I
think it was good we went through it when we did because now we're
playing our best. The ball's going in and we're playing with
The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 29 points, cut the lead
to 70-57 midway through the third quarter, but could get no closer.
A minute later the lead was back to 20 after a free throw by Wesley
and two 3s by Sura.
Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy was worried about Houston's lack of
intensity early in the second half.
"We looked disinterested to start the third quarter," he said.
"That starting group, for whatever reason, is giving us a lot of
sub-par play either to start games or to start third quarters and
that's of great concern.
"Attention spans can wander through the season but if you have
any desire to achieve, you don't let them."
Elton Brand scored a season-high 36 points for the Clippers, who
were 1-of-6 on 3-pointers and were outrebounded 39-28.
The Rockets (50-31) host Seattle on Wednesday to close the
Houston split the season series with Dallas, but one of the
Rockets' wins came with both Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley on
"We've still got to improve," McGrady said. "The playoffs are
definitely going to be a different ballgame. Although we're winning
by a large margin, we've got to keep it up."
The Clippers fell to 9-31 on the road.
Clippers C Chris Kaman missed a second straight game
because of a sore lower back. ... Clippers F Zeljko Rebraca
(sprained left ankle) also sat out. ... McGrady joined Elvin Hayes,
Moses Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets to score 2,000
points in a season. He's the only non-center in the group. ... The
Rockets' 70 points in the first half was their highest first half
total since 2000. ... The Clippers' 28 rebounds was a season-low
for a Houston opponent. ...Monday marked the first time the Rockets
won consecutive games by 25 or more points since March 2000.