for this game

Despite injury to Yao, Rockets blow out Bulls

Dec 23, 2007 - 5:18 AM By Bruce Levine PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CHICAGO (Ticker) - The Houston Rockets ended their second three-game losing streak of the season by blasting the Chicago Bulls.

Despite losing All-Star center Yao Ming for part of the second half with a sprained right thumb, Houston won for the fifth straight time here with a 116-98 victory on Saturday night.

Yao left the game with 5:45 left in the third quarter. X-rays taken of the damaged thumb were negative and he returned with just under eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Yao scored 18 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

"In the first quarter, I jammed my little finger and in the third it was my thumb, today was not my lucky day," Yao said. "The good news is that it's not hurting that much. The bad news is it's my shooting hand."

Tracy McGrady and Bonzi Wells scored 20 points each to pace the Rockets, who were 10-of-20 from 3-point range.

"I told the guys that they ran their stuff the way they needed to on offense. That's why they got so many good looks," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We just need to keep doing this on a consistent basis."

Houston took an 86-72 lead into the fourth quarter and continued to pour it on. After a basket by Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich started the period, the Rockets put the game away with a 15-4 run capped by a 3-pointer by Wells at the 9:17 mark of the fourth.

"We found guys on the perimeter and exploited their weakness on the defensive end," McGrady said. "It was a great energy game from both the starters and our bench."

Chicago, playing its fourth game in five nights, appeared to run out of gas.

"I think Houston played back-to-back like we did, so you can't use that as an excuse," Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. "That's what this league is all about. It's giving a good effort every night."

Early on, it was the Bulls who looked the fresher of the two teams. Chicago stampeded out of gate on a 10-2 run. The Bulls hit nine of their first 13 shots en route to a 20-10 lead on a Gordon 3-pointer with 5:37 left in the initial period. The Bulls led, 26-21, after one quarter.

However, Houston responded with a 20-5 run to begin the second period. Led by Luther Head, who had eight straight points off the bench, the Rockets took a 41-31 lead as Head capped the spurt with a shot from the arc.

"It's hard to describe what happened out there to us tonight," Bulls center Ben Wallace said. "Right now, it looks like we're going through the motions. I am not happy with my play or what I see on the floor."

The Rockets still led, 52-44, with 1:02 remaining in the half before Luol Deng made a pair of foul shots and a layup in a span of 27 seconds to cut Chicago's deficit to 52-48 at intermission.

The Rockets' bench outscored the Bulls' reserves, 22-0, in the first half.

"I don't want to be to critical of our guys on the bench," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "But, tonight, we didn't get the productivity from them. It happens sometimes."

Houston continued to build its lead in third period, taking an 18 point lead at 84-66 on Rafer Alston's layup with 2:20 remaining.

Hinrich scored 22 points and Deng added 21 for Chicago.

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