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Yao tosses in 34 against Shaq and Heat

Nov 13, 2006 - 4:03 AM MIAMI (Ticker) -- Yao Ming won the battle of the big men.

Yao scored 34 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, as the Houston Rockets shut down Shaquille O'Neal and the defending champion Miami Heat, 94-72.

Tracy McGrady finished with 12 points and eight assists for the Rockets, who have won four straight games.

"Tracy was great in the fourth and Yao was a load," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "We got our heads handed to us in the second half."

After posting 35 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in the Rockets' 103-94 triumph over the New York Knicks on Friday, the 7-5 Yao picked up right where he left off against O'Neal. He shot 11-of-19 from the field, grabbed 14 rebounds and continually frustrated the 13-time All-Star.

"He hit a lot of tough shots tonight and when you're playing against a guy like that ... you're not going to block his shot," O'Neal said. "You've just got to try to push him out and play him tough."

Yao put on a clinic in the fourth quarter as Miami tried to rally from a 60-56 deficit. He scored on a lefthanded layup and his bank shot gave the Rockets a 64-56 lead with 10 1/2 minutes to play.

With 5 1/2 minutes left, Yao took a lead pass from McGrady and converted a fast-break layup - the first transition hoop of the game for Houston - for a 76-66 lead with 5:20 to play. On Houston's next possession, Yao hit a turnaround jumper over O'Neal from the right baseline as the shot clock expired for a 78-68 edge with 4:25 to play.

"Every time I score on (O'Neal) I'm happy because he's such a great player," Yao said. "No question, he is the toughest player in the league. You have to have energy and mental toughness in the fourth quarter or else he will wear you down.

"He wasn't the same Shaq tonight as he was during the playoffs last year. That was a totally different Shaq out there."

Yao finished off the punchless Heat with two dunks in the last 3 1/2 minutes.

While Yao dominated on the offensive end, the Rockets bottled up the defending champs on the other end. Dwyane Wade scored just eight of his 24 points in the second half, as the Heat scored just 33 points after the break.

"I just couldn't really get into the flow offensively," Wade said. "I missed shots that I normally hit. We were a little flat on offense, and they did a great job of running their offense."

Wade finished 8-of-22 from the floor.

"We did a good job of keeping him out of the lane and off the free-throw line," Houston forward Shane Battier said. "The best you can do is chase him around and keep a hand in his face.

"He's such a huge factor for them, but we were able to shut him down in that third quarter and that says a lot about our defense and how we are progressing."

O'Neal was just 6-of-14 from the floor and 3-of-9 from the line, and he committed five turnovers with one assist.

"It's a hard job. He's the most dominant center in this league," Yao said. "I just have to keep running with him and matching him play-for-play at both ends. I faced (Eddy) Curry the other night but then having to face Shaq puts you at a whole different level."

Antoine Walker added 13 for Miami, which shot 39 (28-of-71) percent.

McGrady, while quiet from the floor, contributed down the stretch with two field goals and five assists during a nine-possession stretch in the fourth quarter.

"Some nights he shoots a lot, some nights he passes a lot," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I'm not sure how he sees what he sees. His vision is incredible."

Battier and reserve Luther Head added 11 points each for Houston, which outrebounded Miami, 42-39, and turned over the ball just 10 times.

Houston forward Chuck Hayes left the game in the third period with a hyperextended left knee.

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