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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.