Yao outduels Arenas as Rockets edge WizardsDec 10, 2006 - 3:07 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Gilbert Arenas took care of his cold feet but had no answer for Yao Ming's hot hand.
Yao scored 23 of his season-high 38 points in the fourth quarter as the Houston Rockets held on for a 114-109 victory over the Washington Wizards, who wasted 41 points from Arenas and had a three-game winning streak snapped.
Tracy McGrady scored 28 points but left midway through the fourth quarter with back spasms for the Rockets, who swept the season series. Overall, Houston has won two in a row, four of five and eight of 10.
"Yao took over in the fourth quarter," McGrady said. "That's what the big fellow can do. He's comfortable with carrying the team now. He's shown it last year. He did it tonight."
"Somebody has to step up," Yao said. "I know how to play without him - secure the ball and go aggressive. Don't think it about it too much."
It was the fourth 40-point game of the season - all at home - for Arenas, who scored all of his points in the final three quarters, changing sneakers following an awful opening period. He made 13-of-30 shots, including 7-of-15 3-pointers.
There was a delay due to a partial electrical failure after the third period, but Yao provided plenty of power. He made 13-of-19 shots and 12-of-14 free throws, also grabbing 11 rebounds.
"He gets fouled, and he's going to make his free throws," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Teams can do a good job on him, but consistently, he will score. Guarded legally, he's going to score."
"This guy's got an arsenal that I haven't seen before," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "He's equally dominating on either box."
The 7-6 Yao was too much for Washington big men Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas, both of whom left with injuries. Haywood departed with a bruised thigh in the first half and Thomas sat down with a sprained ankle in the second half.
"That's the worst time you want to lose your centers - against Yao Ming," Arenas said. "That's the worst person you want to lose your centers to, because Brendan bothers his shot. Brendan is good on him, so that was hard on the team."
"They know how to guard a big man, post me up," Yao said. "When they're out, obviously, it's good for us, good for me. I go and do what I need to do - score."
Yao scored Houston's first 12 points of the fourth quarter to give Houston the lead for good at 92-91 with 7:16 remaining. During that stretch, Arenas had a three-point play and consecutive 3-pointers to briefly give the Wizards the lead.
"He's not getting in foul trouble like he did in the past," Arenas said. "It's hard because the big fella has gotten a lot smarter. He doesn't help you stop him. When he got it going like he did, there just wasn't much we could do."
Shortly thereafter, McGrady winced in pain after launching a 3-pointer and hobbled off the court. The All-Star swingman has been bothered by back injuries throughout his career.
"It was a little different last year from a pain tolerance," said McGrady, who insisted he would play Tuesday. "I was something I really couldn't put my finger on. It was really painful. It was hard for me to even sit down. It was hard for me to stand up and walk around."
"He was out for the fourth quarter in a very tight, very close score," Yao said. "I was thinking the same - do more, do more work, put the team in a good position."
Two 3-pointers by Luther Head and four free throws by Yao pushed the lead to 102-93 with 4:42 to play.
"When you go down and you stop (Yao) down in the box, he did a great job of kicking it out to Luther Head, who hit some clutch 3-pointers," Jordan said.
A jumper by former Wizard Juwan Howard kept the margin at 108-101 before Washington made a final push.
Caron Butler's three-point play and a drive by Arenas cut the deficit to 110-106 with 1:05 to go. Yao scored inside, but Calvin Booth's first 3-pointer of the season made it a one-point game with 30 seconds left.
Undaunted, Yao threw in a floater from the baseline with 11 seconds to play. Arenas was short on a potential tying 3-pointer from the left corner.
Head and Rafer Alston scored 12 points each and Howard and Shane Battier added 10 apiece for the Rockets, who shot 55 percent (28-of-69) and made 30-of-38 free throws.
"They're a great offensive team," Van Gundy said. "To beat them here at home and hold them to 109, hey, we feel blessed."
Antawn Jamison had 27 points and 11 rebounds and Butler added 17 and 10 for the Wizards, who shot under 40 percent (35-of-88), including 12-of-26 from the arc. Washington had a two-game winning streak snapped.
In the first quarter, Arenas missed all six of his shots and all four free throws, then headed to the locker room to change sneakers.
He emerged with a black pair and came alive with 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting - including four 3-pointers - to help the Wizards grab a 52-51 lead. McGrady and Yao combined for 29 points to keep the Rockets close.
"After the first quarter, I had to change my shoes," Arenas said. "I wore those shoes yesterday, so I had to change those shoes. I turned on the hibachi grill a little bit and got those things going."
"We let him get off with a couple of younger defenders on him," Van Gundy said. "Once he got going, he was really, really good."
Yao had a quiet third quarter, but McGrady scored 12 points to give Houston an 80-75 lead entering the final period.
WASHINGTON 109 FINAL
Dec 9 9:47 PM
HOUSTON AT WASHINGTON
NOTE: THE GAME HAS RESUMED AFTER A NINE MINUTE DELAY.
CURRENT SCORE HOUSTON 80, WASHINGTON 75.
Dec 9 9:08 PM
END 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
HOUSTON 20 31 29 80
WASHINGTON 23 29 23 75 END 3RD QTR
HIGH SCORERS AFTER 3RD QUARTER
HOU - TRACY MCGRADY 28, YAO MING 15, RAFER
WAS - GILBERT ARENAS 28, ANTAWN JAMISON 18,
CARON BUTLER 12
Dec 9 8:54 PM
WASHINGTON 52 HALFTIME
Dec 9 8:10 PM
WASHINGTON 23 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 9 7:36 PM
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