Houston 102, L.A. Lakers 87
HOUSTON, Feb. 11 (Ticker) -- Yao Ming
outplayed Shaquille O'Neal
ruined Kobe Bryant's
return to the lineup.
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Yao scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed
11 rebounds to help the Houston Rockets to a 102-87 victory
over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We played as a team tonight," Yao said through an interpreter.
"Everybody played together and we had great chemistry on the
floor. At least for one day, they couldn't guard just one or
two of us."
Elected over O'Neal as the starting center on the Western
Conference All-Star team for the second straight year, Yao made
10-of-21 shots and 9-of-11 free throws.
"He's a good player," said O'Neal, who was called for five fouls
in the final period. "He made the shots, but he got the
whistles, too. He's a big guy and has a soft touch, but I don't
think he ever will be able to play me 1-on-1. Ever, ever,
Yao got a little help from his teammates as Steve Francis
added 21 points apiece. Mobley also had a
season-high 10 assists to help Houston rebound from Monday's
85-82 home loss to San Antonio.
The Lakers had a hard time containing Francis and Mobley.
Francis shot 9-of-11 from the field while Mobley hit 7-of-12.
"We passed the ball on top and got quality shots," Francis said.
"I don't think I've ever seen Cuttino pass the ball like that."
O'Neal had 24 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers before
fouling out with 3:20 to go. Gary Payton
added 19 points as Los
Angeles had its two-game winning streak snapped and finished
4-3 on its longest road trip of the season.
Bryant returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a
cut on his right index finger and finished with 14 points.
"My hand feels pretty good," Bryant said. "It's a little
tender. It was a nasty cut but it's been healing pretty well.
I'm going to keep some tape around it, but I don't think it will
be an adjustment. I think it will be fine."
Houston opened the fourth period with a 12-4 run to build an
85-69 lead with 8:27 remaining. The Lakers got no closer than
12 points thereafter.
Steve Francis hit two free throws after receiving a flagrant
foul from O'Neal to cap the run.
Yao's offensive aggression played a major role in O'Neal's
disqualification. But the second-year player also struggled with
foul trouble and finished with five fouls.
"I think you have to make adjustments throughout the game if
you're playing against the best player in the league," Rockets
coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I thought Yao did that well. He
went to his jump hook so he could protect the ball a little
Houston won the first meeting between the teams, a 99-87 victory
at Staples Center on Christmas. Matchups between the teams
have been billed as duels between O'Neal and Yao.
The 7-1 O'Neal has been the most dominant center in recent years
while the 7-5 Yao has been looked upon as the heir apparent.
The game was tied, 54-54, with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
But Houston went on a 17-6 run over the next three minutes to
build a 71-60 lead.