Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets struggled in the star's first game back after he missed more than two months with a leg injury. Both player and team will look for better results Wednesday when the Rockets visit the surging Boston Celtics.

Yao, who missed 32 games after breaking a bone under his right knee Dec. 23, returned Monday and had 16 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes of Houston's 91-85 loss at Cleveland.

The defeat was the second in a row and fourth in five contests for the Rockets (36-24). It also showed that Yao, who shot 5-for-15 from the field and committed five turnovers, will need time to shake off the rust.

"I can't wait for my next game," Yao said.

A matchup with the Celtics (17-42), though, might not be as appealing as it was a few weeks back. Since losing 22 of 23 games, Boston has won four in a row, a run that started with a 77-72 victory at Houston on Feb. 26.

Yao figures to be more comfortable Wednesday with a game under his belt. He had just one practice since recovering from his injury, then shot 1-for-9 in the first half Monday.

"In the second quarter, third quarter, I was almost like a high school player," Yao said. "Sometimes, Cleveland would just steal the ball from my hand."

Yao, who scored more than 30 points in four of his five games before the injury, is averaging 25.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, but almost four turnovers per game.

"Uneven, which is to be expected,'' Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said of his center's first game back. "But he's got to cut down on his turnovers. We can't play well if he goes right back to what he was doing before he got hurt, which is being a high-turnover guy. It's impossible to have offensive rhythm.''

Houston, fifth in the Western Conference, managed to go 20-12 without Yao thanks in large part to the play of Tracy McGrady, who's averaging 24.5 points, a career-high 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds on the season.

McGrady had 25 points Monday but went just 10-for-32 from the field as the Rockets shot 36.0 percent, the second straight game they've shot under 40 percent. They shot 32.1 percent against the Celtics last week.

McGrady missed the loss to Boston with flu-like symptoms. Bonzi Wells led the Rockets with 27 points, but did not travel with the team to Cleveland because of a sore right foot.

Boston will try to match its season high with a fifth straight victory Wednesday.

The Celtics won their second overtime game in a row Sunday, 124-117 in double OT over Minnesota. Delonte West scored all 31 of his points after halftime for Boston, while Paul Pierce added 27.

Ryan Gomes had 21 points and 17 rebounds, and Al Jefferson had 21 points and 14 boards for the Celtics.

"It feels good," said Pierce, who had 28 points against Houston last week and has averaged 25.4 against the Rockets in his career. "We are getting ourselves into a rhythm. Guys are starting to feel confident with themselves. It just feels good to be on the winning side of things."

Boston's defense has tightened up, as the Celtics are allowing 92.8 points per game during the win streak, compared to their 100.2 season average. They gave up a season low in points against the Rockets.

Jefferson, averaging 14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds on the season, was named Eastern Conference player of the week after averaging 23.5 points and 14.5 boards in the last four games.

"I'm just playing hard," Jefferson said. "Going out there and doing what I know I can do. I know I can score and I know I can rebound and that's what I am doing."


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