LOS ANGELES, Nov. 24 (Ticker) -- Yao Ming's height may have worked against him.

NBA TV highlights from
56k | 300k
Yao goaltended Eric Piatkowski's running bank shot with 1.4 seconds left that gave the Los Angeles Clippers a 90-89 victory over the Houston Rockets, who collapsed down the stretch.

The Rockets erased a 10-point halftime deficit and led by as many eight points in the fourth quarter. But they squandered a six-point lead in the final 84 seconds and have dropped five of the last seven meetings with the Clippers.

A dunk by Glen Rice, who scored a season-high 23 points, gave Houston an 89-83 lead with 1:24 left. Andre Miller answered with a lane jumper and Moochie Norris missed two free throws.

Miller made 1-of-2 foul shots and Norris committed a turnover. Michael Olowokandi cut the deficit to 89-88 with 37 seconds remaining with a hook over the 7-5 Yao, who missed a turnaround jumper at the other end.

The Rockets twice knocked the ball out of bounds before the Clippers finally were able to inbound to Piatkowski, whose runner from the left wing hit the backboard and rattled around the rim. Yao touched it while it was within the cylinder, counting the basket.

"It felt really good," Piatkowski said. "Most people don't practice that shot, but I actually practice the runner a lot. The most important thing when you shoot that shot is it has to be very soft, have a lot or arc on it. And I did. I put it up there real soft. It was able to bounce around and fall in.

"He hit it. I was right there in front of the rim. It was in because I couldn't tell for a second, but that last bounce, I said it's going in and that's when he hit it."

Playing just his 12th NBA game, Yao sounded unclear on the rules regarding goaltending, which are different than in the international game.

"I'm much better than before, but I still have to get used to some of the rules," Yao said. "I knew that I couldn't touch it. I didn't touch it. I took my hand away before he touched it. Even if I hadn't been, it still would have gone in."

"I thought it was already going down," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich added. "He might have reacted. He hasn't been doing that."

On their last possession, the Rockets went to Steve Francis, who had 31 points, 10 assists and eight steals but inexplicably did not touch the ball in the final minute. His fallaway jumper off one foot was no good at the buzzer.

"It was hard, especially losing when we had the game in the fourth quarter," Francis said. "We made so many mistakes late in the game that hurt us. We had a lot of breakdowns. We missed free throws big-time late in the game. The No. 1 thing we didn't do was we didn't concentrate down the stretch."

Elton Brand had a season-high 26 points and 15 rebounds and Keyon Dooling came off the bench to score a season-high 18 points for the Clippers, who won for just the second time in seven games at the Staples Center.

"It was a must win," Brand said. "If we ever needed a must win in November, that was it."

Ming, the top overall pick of the 2002 draft who had a pair of breakout games this week, was limited to four points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. For a brief stretch, he shared the court with Chinese compatriot Wang Zhizhi of the Clippers.

"I don't think we were the main players in the game," Yao said.

"Hopefully, me and Yao will get better and give more respect to Chinese basketball and make Chinese basketball better," Wang said.

Rice was held scoreless in the first half, which ended with Houston trailing, 48-38. But he caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 18 points.

"I was feeling it, just a little bit," Rice said. "I was just getting into a rhythm and my teammates were looking for me, setting some great screens."

"That's what we wanted to get him for, to space the floor," Tomjanovich said. "Plus, he's a good post-up guy. He found his rhythm. I'm glad to see it."

Francis made a 3-pointer at the horn to give the Rockets a 69-66 lead. He scored seven more points early in the fourth quarter before a jumper by Rice made it 80-72 with 5:41 left.

"You should never ever let teams come back and the way to do that is come down (and) make some very simple conservative plays," Olowokandi said. "We haven't done that much this year."

A 3-pointer by Dooling cut the deficit to 81-78 with 3:48 to play, but Francis replied with three free throws. Another 3-pointer by Dooling made it 84-81 with 2:35 left, but Norris answered with a 3-pointer, his only basket of the game.

Miller had 15 points and eight assists, Piatkowski scored 14 points and Olowokandi added 10 for the Clippers, who shot 46.5 percent (33-of-71) but committed 22 turnovers, including eight by Brand.

Kenny Thomas had 12 points and nine boards for the Rockets, who shot 45 percent (32-of-71) and committed 23 turnovers, including eight by Francis.