Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 1)

Series starts 10/25

Game 1: Wednesday, October 25th

Rockets 96

(5-1, 2-0 away)

Heat 71

(2-5, 1-2 home)

Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

8:00 PM ET, October 25, 2006

AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 20 22 30 2496
MIA 21 15 18 1771

Houston 96, Miami 71

MIAMI (AP) -- The original plan was for Dwyane Wade to rest his sore hip and skip the Miami Heat's preseason finale.

Yet he warmed up, felt no pain -- and turned out to be one of few Heat bright spots Wednesday night.

Wade hit his first five shots, all of them jumpers, and finished with 26 points in 32 minutes. But no one else reached double figures, and the Heat lost to the Houston Rockets 96-71.

"I wanted to get out there and get some conditioning going, get my rhythm going," said Wade, the reigning NBA finals MVP. "I think I did a good job of that."

Tracy McGrady scored 19 points and Yao Ming added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who won their fifth straight preseason game.

Rafer Alston scored 13 points, Kirk Snyder added 11 and Shane Battier had 10 for Houston, which had all five starters reach double figures. The Rockets finish their exhibition season Thursday in Orlando.

"We have to improve, basically, on everything," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Just like with every team right now, you have to keep that idea of improvement. The scores are misleading. Guys are out. You just want to focus on improvement."

Improvement will be a catch word for the Heat over the next few days, too.

Shaquille O'Neal managed nine points on 3-of-8 shooting -- both from the floor and the foul line -- in 22 minutes for Miami, which raises its NBA championship banner when the regular season opens Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls.

"We never stayed with their energy and their activity," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "All we did was foul. They shot 24 free throws in the first half. That was a problem of ours last year and something we know we're going to have to get better at."

Houston also got 17 points and four 3-pointers from reserve Steve Novak, with all but two of those points coming in the final 6:08.

It was a rough night all around for the Heat.

Alonzo Mourning was ejected with 2:07 left in the third quarter after picking up his second technical foul, and Gary Payton and Antoine Walker argued during a time-out in the second quarter, then continued their heated conversation on the bench -- as some teammates seated around them barely contained laughter.

Wade -- who was ruled out of the starting lineup 90 minutes before tip-off, then was a last-minute insertion -- hit his first five shots, all of them jumpers, including a pair of 3-pointers.

After McGrady elevated and hit a 3-pointer over him early in the opening quarter, Wade answered with one from long range over Snyder's outstretched arm.

Moments later, Snyder had something to really be embarrassed about.

He stumbled while chasing Wade near the top of the key, and was on the ground when the Heat guard got the ball and squared to shoot. But first, Wade took a glance down at Snyder, then fired and swished a 20-footer for an early 19-15 lead.

The game stayed relatively close until the third quarter, when Houston took control with a 16-2 run and built a 63-45 lead.

Mourning's second technical -- his first came after arguing a first-half foul call against Payton -- ended a bizarre sequence during which Houston held the ball for more than a minute, grabbing several offensive rebounds to extend the trip to the Miami end of the floor.

After Snyder's layup ended the possession and pushed Houston's lead to 67-48, Mourning slammed the ball down and it bounced into the stands. Referee Bill Kennedy originally called a delay-of-game warning on the play, but Alston appealed for a technical -- and after Kennedy checked with fellow ref Eddie F. Rush, the call was changed.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press