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Mutombo moves into second place on all-time blocks list

Jan 11, 2007 - 5:24 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Mount Mutombo still stands tall.

Dikembe Mutombo moved past the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into second place on the all-time blocks list as the Houston Rockets pulled away for a 102-77 victory over the frustrated Los Angeles Lakers.

Juwan Howard scored a season-high 23 points and Rafer Alston 20 for the Rockets, who busted open a close game by outscoring the Lakers by lopsided 55-31 in the second half.

A driving force behind the Rockets' seventh win in eight games was the 40-year-old Mutombo, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year who continued to a play like a youngster.

The 7-2 Mutombo moved past Abdul-Jabbar with his 3,190th career block when he swatted a shot by the 7-foot Andrew Bynum with 3:17 remaining in the third quarter. He celebrated the block with the customary wag of his finger.

"When I came in the league 16 years ago, I told myself before I walk away from this game, I just wanted to be remembered for one thing," Mutombo said. "And that is to be remembered for being one of the greatest defensive players to ever play this game. I never considered myself to be a part of the offense. I played the game I was supposed to play and how I wanted to play. I accomplished my goal."

Mutombo added another block in the fourth quarter, finishing with five on the night. He still is 639 blocks behind Rockets icon Hakeem Olajuwon for first place on the all-time list.

"Hakeem Olajuwon is the reason why I am going to be able to go out tonight, buy a case of champagne," Mutombo said. "I will toast Olajuwon for leading and setting an example for me and inspiring me. He was a great role model for me."

"Mutombo is masterful at what he does," Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant said. "The young players in this league need to watch him and talk to him. That is what I did when I first came in."

Blocks were not the only thing Mutombo did as he tied a season high with 19 rebounds, the eighth straight game in which he reached double digits.

The intimidation caused by Mutombo was a major reason the Lakers shot just 21 percent (8-of-38) in a woeful second-half performance.

"Our defense is predicated on keeping people out of the lane, so it's good to know we have the big fella back there as a presence," said Rockets forward Shane Battier, who scored 17 points. "He gives us so much confidence especially when he is feeling it like he was tonight. He was feeling good and moving and just swatting everything in sight. He really helps us take our defense to a higher level."

"They were good defensively. Mutombo's blocking had something to do with that," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who was ejected with 15 seconds left in the third quarter after picking up back-to-back technical fouls.

The defense also helped the Rockets overcome a quiet night from superstar Tracy McGrady, who scored eight points on 4-of-16 shooting. He did get others involved, handing out 12 assists.

Playing through a strained groin suffered in the second quarter, Bryant scored 20 points to lead the Lakers, who have lost two straight following a four-game losing streak.

"I just took off and tried to accelerate," Bryant said. "I just pushed it, but I can't remember exactly when. It feels tight and it feels like I want to stretch it. But they told me not too. I should be fine to play on Friday. It will take some adjustments and we'll treat it around the clock."

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