HOUSTON, Nov. 22 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis helped make teammate Yao Ming's first NBA start a successful one.

NBA TV highlights from
Rockets-Wizards:
56k | 300k
Yao scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Francis scored seven of his 16 points in a key 5 1/2-minute stretch of the third quarter as the Houston Rockets defeated the Washington Wizards, 93-86.

Yao and the Rockets dominated the paint, but Washington still led, 53-52, after a jumper by Michael Jordan with 6:49 left in the third quarter.

The lead was short-lived, as rookie Juaquin Hawkins hit a jumper to ignite a 17-2 run that Francis capped with a three-pointer with 78 seconds left in the quarter for a 69-55 advantage.

"This was a really big win," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We've really been on a road trip the last week or so and really needed to win tonight. Our zone saved us. We kep them from getting to the free throw line."

"Coach told us at halftime to be aggressive and take those open looks," Francis said. "I thought we did that in the second half. What we want to do is execute in the halfcourt set when we don't have anything in transition. I thought we did a good job of that."

Yao led all scorers with 10 first-quarter points and had 14 in the first half.

Jordan was held to eight points on 4-of-15 shooting.

"He (Yao) is getting better and better," Jordan said. "His footwork is better than people thought. He's going to get even better as he gets used to the NBA game and gets used to the level of competition."

Yao was somewhat starstruck by his opponent.

"He (Jordan) will always be a hero, no matter the era," Yao said through an interpreter. "It felt like a dream playing against him. I didn't think it would ever happen."

Starting guard Cuttino Mobley was placed on the injured list before the game, but Hawkins stepped in and scored a career-high 14 points, grabbed eight boards and recorded five assists.

Glen Rice added 16 points and Kenny Thomas chipped in 12 off the bench for the Rockets, who shot 49 percent (36-of-74) from the field and committed just eight turnovers.

Jerry Stackhouse hit five three-pointers in the first half and scored 26 points and Larry Hughes added 22 for Washington, which shot 9-of-17 from the arc and 42 percent overall (35-of-83). The Wizards also were careful with the ball, committing only seven turnovers.

"The key was the third quarter," Stackhouse said. "Houston had more success with their zone than we did with ours. We got away from what we were doing in the first half."

Tyronn Lue added 14 points for Washington.

Trailing 45-44 at halftime on mediocre 17-of-40 shooting, the Rockets caught fire in the third period. They made 13-of-18 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from the arc. Hawkins was a big contributor, scoring 12 points in the quarter.

Houston improved to 5-1 at home.

The Rockets led by as many as five points in the second quarter, but the Wizards went on a 16-6 burst and opened their biggest lead at 45-40 on rookie Jared Jeffries' jumper.