HOUSTON, Dec. 3 (Ticker) --
As Tim Duncan
will attest, Yao Ming is the
Yao scored 27 points and pulled down 18 rebounds, leading the
Houston Rockets to an 89-75 victory over Duncan and the slumping
San Antonio Spurs.
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The top overall pick in the draft, Yao was matched up for the
first time against Duncan, the 1997 top overall pick, reigning
NBA MVP and most fundamentally sound big man in the league.
The 7-5 center from China continued his steady improvement,
making 10-of-18 shots and 7-of-7 free throws. His rebounds were
a season high and helped Houston to a 53-36 advantage on the
"It might have been because I knew I was going up against two
great centers (in Duncan and David Robinson
)," Yao said through
an interpreter. "When I first came to the NBA, I had a lot to
think about. To get this victory is like being able to take a
"He played great," Robinson said. "He was all over the boards.
He shot the ball well and he moved the ball around. He was the
difference in the game."
Yao's presence also was felt on the defensive end. He blocked
three shots, including a patented turnaround jumper by Duncan in
the third quarter, and helped limit San Antonio to 34 percent
(25-of-73) from the field.
Despite the poor shooting, the Spurs took a 64-61 lead into the
fourth quarter. But they made just 2-of-15 shots in the final
period and lost for the fourth time in six games.
Duncan had 25 points and 12 rebounds. But he made just 8-of-21
shots and 9-of-16 free throws while receiving very little help.
"He was impressive tonight," Duncan said. "He's got a great
touch and he's bigger in person than you think he is. He shot
the ball better than I thought he could. We put our hands in
his face and it didn't matter. He played great tonight."
It was a marked improvement from Yao's first game, an exhibition
contest against the Spurs in which he played poorly.
"It might have been because I was extremely tired when I first
came here," Yao said. "The biggest difference between my first
game and this game is that my confidence is much, much higher.
I have to thank my teammates for their faith in me."
"We have a direction now, we have a versatile inside presence,"
said Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, whose team has not made the
playoffs in three years. "I think he's going to sleep good
scored 18 points and Moochie Norris
added a season-high
16 off the bench for the Rockets, who had lost 14 of the
previous 15 meetings with the Spurs. They were swept in last
season's four-game set.
"We really haven't had much success against them the last couple
of years," Francis said. "We're going to enjoy this, but you
can't get too high because we've got too many games to play."
A three-pointer by Francis gave Houston the lead for good at 68-66
with 9:41 to play. A basket and two free throws by Norris
extended the margin to 74-69 with 7:05 to go.
Duncan made a lane jumper for San Antonio's first basket of the
period. He was fouled but missed the free throw, leaving it at
76-72 with 4:44 remaining. Two free throws and a basket by Yao
made it 82-73 with 3:05 to play, and the Rockets led by at least
seven points thereafter.
"He did a great job of playing a complete basketball game,"
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's a natural. He's going
to be a big-time force in this league."
scored 10 points for the Rockets, who shot 45.5
and Bruce Bowen
scored 12 points apiece for the
Spurs, who missed 11 free throws. Robinson scored just seven
points on 2-of-8 shooting.
The first quarter ended in a 21-21 tie as Yao had nine points
and eight boards while Duncan had six and seven.
Yao took a breather at the outset of the second quarter but
returned midway through the period and scored eight points while
also finding Norris for a pair of baskets, helping Houston take
a 49-39 halftime lead.
"Yao was fantastic," Tomjanovich said. "We did a better job of
getting it into him."
"He's big and talented and he's just learning," Robinson said.
"You can't find size like that and he's got some nice skills.
We got to get tougher on him next time."
Early in the third quarter, Yao swatted a shot by Duncan, who
seemed energized by the play. He scored eight points in a 12-0
run, including two free throws that gave the Spurs a 55-53 lead
with 5:35 left.