Houston's Yao Ming got the better of Yi Jianlian in the first meeting between the two Chinese stars, but the Milwaukee rookie did manage to impress his veteran countryman.
Milwaukee fans will get their first look at Yao and Yi on the court together when the Bucks host the Rockets on Saturday.
Yao had 28 points, 10 rebounds and three assists and Yi had 19 points and nine rebounds in the first meeting between the two players, a 104-88 Rockets win in Houston on Nov. 9. The game was a huge event in China, where it was broadcast on 19 television networks.
"His talent is unbelievable," said Yao, a five-time All-Star. "You ask me how good he can be? I can't say that. But I think he'll be better than me."
The Bucks (18-29) selected the 20-year-old Yi sixth overall in last June's draft. He has started each of Milwaukee's 47 games and is averaging 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds.
"I wasn't thinking about it in terms of Yi or Yao," Yi said after the last meeting. "It was the Rockets against the Bucks. I was concerned about the game."
Houston (26-20) won its sixth in a row against Milwaukee in November, and hasn't lost to the Bucks since a 115-87 road defeat on Dec. 28, 2004.
The Rockets enter this matchup on a six-game road winning streak - their longest such streak since an eight-game run Nov. 2-30, 1996. They are coming off Friday's 106-103 win in Indiana, their sixth victory in seven games overall.
"There's less distractions on the road," said Tracy McGrady, who had 19 points. "It's just us against the crowd and the other team. I think we're more focused."
Yao had 17 points and 12 rebounds Friday, and rookie Carl Landry scored 13 of his career-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. Landry, a second-round draft pick out of Purdue, was playing in just his 13th game.
"He made some big plays down the stretch," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "Every time I've played him in a game, except once, he's been effective. ... Carl was terrific in that fourth quarter."
The Bucks, meanwhile, are coming off a humiliating 112-69 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday. The 43-point defeat matched the fourth-worst in franchise history - but it wasn't even the worst this season for Milwaukee, which lost 114-69 at Detroit on Dec. 31.
"This is one we need to forget about," coach Larry Krystkowiak said Wednesday.
Royal Ivey scored 17 points for the Bucks, who were without leading scorer Michael Redd for the third straight game because of a left knee strain. Redd, who averages 23.0 points, did not practice on Friday and wasn't sure whether he would be able to play against the Rockets.
However, Desmond Mason, who underwent right thumb surgery and hasn't played since Dec. 19, said he will be back on Saturday. Mason is averaging 8.0 points in 25 games this season.
Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited