Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 11/8

Game 1: Saturday, November 8th
Game 2: Sunday, January 25th

Rockets 99

(26-17, 12-12 away)

Magic 87

(12-33, 6-15 home)

    6:00 PM ET, January 25, 2004

    Amway Arena, Orlando, FL

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 21 22 32 2499
    ORL 17 23 28 1987

    Top Performers

    Hou: Y. Ming 37 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Blk

    Orl: T. McGrady 31 Pts, 2 Reb, 2 Ast

    Yao scores 21 in third quarter

    ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Orlando's weak interior defense didn't stand a chance against Yao Ming.

    Houston's center continued his recent stellar play by scoring 21 of his career-high 37 points in the third quarter, leading the Rockets to a 99-87 victory over the Magic on Sunday night.

    "Our goal is to play effective basketball and not to break records," said Yao, whose previous high was 30. "Of course, if I can score more points I will try to score more points."

    Houston has won six of its last seven games and Yao, with 10 rebounds against Orlando, registered double-doubles in all the victories. In his last seven games, Yao is averaging 22.9 points and 11.3 rebounds.

    "Obviously, not too many teams have a weapon like that other than the Lakers," Rockets reserve point guard Mark Jackson said. "The guy is so big and skilled, it's unbelievable. He's a big guy with great hands, great touch and he makes you look good."

    Orlando is challenged inside even against average players, and the 7-foot-6, 310-pound Yao is anything but average. Also, Magic coach Johnny Davis decided against double-teaming unless Yao was dribbling while backing down his defender.

    That put Orlando center Andrew DeClercq, eight inches shorter and 55 pounds lighter, in a very lonely place.

    "I told Andrew, 'Hold your ground as best you can," Davis said. "We were going to give him help on the dribble, but it didn't get there the way it should have."

    While Yao was making a career-high 15 field goals in 23 attempts, DeClercq was knocked to the floor twice and bulled out of the way another time. DeClercq more often than not got a hand in Yao's face on his jumpers, but to little effect.

    Reserve center Zaza Pachulia fared no better, fouling Yao twice within a minute during the third quarter.

    "I didn't want to be passive and let them come and defend me," Yao said. "I wanted to attack them."

    Yao scored 15 straight points for the Rockets in the third. For the period, he made seven of 11 shots and sank all seven of his free throws. His two free throws at the 2:27 mark of the third quarter broke his previous career best, set Nov. 21, 2002 at Dallas.

    Despite Yao's performance, Houston led by just seven entering the fourth quarter after Tracy McGrady scored 14 of his 31 points in the third.

    "Yeah, I had the hot streak," McGrady said. "But it didn't matter because they were coming down and Yao was doing the same thing."

    Yao came out 39 seconds into the fourth, but the Rockets found a way to get another big man going inside. Maurice Taylor extended Houston's lead to 87-75 by scoring 10 straight points

    Taylor finished with 20 points, shooting 8-for-13, and eight rebounds.

    "He was another guy who just kind of beat us on the interior," Davis said.

    The Rockets led by 11 with five minutes to go when Yao checked back in. Two minutes later, he hit a 17-foot jumper that gave Houston a 97-80 advantage.

    Houston's big men needed to step up because Steve Francis had a poor game. The Rockets' leading scorer only had seven points -- 10 below his average -- while missing eight of 11 shots. His first field goal didn't come until 38.2 seconds remained in the third quarter.

    Jackson filled in as playmaker, coming off the bench for 10 assists.

    "Mark Jackson played a great game on the offensive end," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He kept us organized and made some terrific passes."

    Game notes

    Orlando guard Keith Bogans sat out the second half after bruising his right leg in a second-quarter collision with Yao. ... Houston has won five straight from Orlando, although the Magic's home record against the Rockets is 12-4. ... Before the game, Orlando activated rookie guard Reece Gaines from the injured list. He had been out since Dec. 5 with right knee patella tendinitis and missed the last 26 games. He went scoreless in three minutes of garbage time.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 99 87
    FGM-FGA 38-77 (.494) 29-76 (.382)
    3PM-3PA 5-14 (.357) 9-15 (.600)
    FTM-FTA 18-20 (.900) 20-25 (.800)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-43 9-35
    Assists 22 19
    Turnovers 12 11
    Steals 4 2
    Blocks 5 2
    Fast Break Points 4 3
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (1/0) 18 (2/0)

    Top Performers

    Yao Ming Ming
    Points: 37
    Reb: 10
    Ast: 0
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 2
    Tracy McGrady McGrady
    Points: 31
    Reb: 2
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0