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Yao outshines Duncan as Rockets outlast Spurs

Nov 7, 2007 - 5:53 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Yao Ming outplayed Tim Duncan and the Houston Rockets beat the previously unbeaten San Antonio Spurs, 89-81, on Tuesday night at the Toyota Center.

Yao had 28 points and 13 rebounds and played solid help defense on Duncan, who scored just 14 points on 5-of-15 from the field and 4-of-8 from the free-throw line.

Bonzi Wells collected 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who lost Monday night at Dallas. San Antonio had not played since beating Sacramento at home last Friday.

"Bonzi was terrific," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "He was on the boards all night long. You shoot 40 percent and you get 25 offensive rebounds, it's pretty good. He's just a handful and it's hard to keep him off the boards."

Wells played some of his best basketball when he played for Adelman in Sacramento in 2005-06. He averaged 23.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in a six-game playoff series vs. San Antonio that season.

"He's one of the few coaches who understands me and lets me be myself," Wells said of Adelman. "It felt good (tonight). The first four games I wasn't playing up to my ability. I've been telling the guys I've been pressing a little bit. I didn't do much (Monday in Dallas), so I had a lot of energy tonight."

Wells helped the Rockets to a large 55-28 edge in rebounding.

"They beat us up badly on the boards and that was a constant problem for us all game," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "Bonzi seems to have a way of doing that against the Spurs no matter what he wears. He had a wonderful game."

San Antonio, which trailed almost the entire game, closed within 79-72 with 2:55 to play on a pair of free throws by Manu Ginobili.

The Rockets then went right to Yao on their next three possessions. The first two times he hit shots over Duncan and the third Ginobili fouled him when he went to double-team - and Yao made 1-of-2 free throws.

"I hope (Monday) night's situation does not happen again, when we had a couple of turnovers in a row (in the closing minutes)," Yao said. "I knew we were going to post me up to make a play. I kept repeating everything I do in practice in my mind."

"Yao was great down the stretch," Adelman said. "We were going to keep going to him. They were going to have to either double him or he was going to score. He's going to get better at passing out of that double-team."

Yao passed for six assists but also committed six of Houston's 18 turnovers.

"I have always admired his game since he came into this league," Ginobili said of Yao. "He's an unbelievable player and he can do everything. He was inspired tonight."

Yao admitted he got tired playing in back-to-back games.

"In the beginning, in the first quarter tonight, I felt tired," he said. "When I started the fourth quarter, I didn't have time to think about it."

The Spurs couldn't get going offensively, except for Ginobili and Parker, who had 23 and 21, respectively. San Antonio shot 37 percent in the first half when it scored just 32 points - falling behind by 13.

The 81 points by the Spurs was at least 15 fewer than they had scored in any of their first three games this season.

"They played very solid, good defense and moved the ball around very well on offense," Duncan said. "It was a very, very, very bad rebounding game for us. It starts and ends there."

Duncan faced a several defenders throughout the game.

"When a player like that has a tough night, it's always a combination of things," Adelman said of Duncan. "He had an off night."

Duncan made his first shot of the game, but finished the first half shooting 1-of-9. Yao, on the other hand, kept scoring for the Rockets.

"Every year Yao is getting better," Duncan said. "The Rockets showed their confidence in him when they go through him at the end of the game like they did tonight. He made some big shots and was tough to stop."

"He is a big load and has improved a lot," Spurs reserve center Francisco Elson said of Yao. "He is stronger and has a great touch around the basket. He made life (tough) for us. We were all so focused on trying to stop Yao, a lot of their other players had an advantage on the boards."

Tracy McGrady, who entered the game averaging 33.0 points, scored just 12 on 4-of-14 shooting. But he contributed six assists and nine rebounds.

"I told T-Mac (McGrady) his presence out there is enough for us," Wells said. "When he's not shooting his shots, I know he's going to pass the ball, create a lot of opportunities for other guys. He's an excellent passer. He can always find guys."

Houston forward Chuck Hayes, attempting to guard Duncan, caught an elbow in the face from the All-Star forward on San Antonio's second possession. Hayes was taken to the locker room and replaced by Luis Scola, the rookie from Argentina.

Scola picked up three fouls in a little over six minutes, forcing Adelman to bring in 7-2 Dikembe Mutombo to play alongside of Yao. Hayes, after getting six stitches over his right eye, returned for the final minute of the quarter.

Mutombo looked younger than his 41 years when he drove for a basket with a 3:03 to play in the first quarter, giving Houston an 18-11 lead. He also grabbed two rebounds in the five minutes he played in the period.

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