for this game

Yao carries Rockets past undermanned Cavs

Feb 8, 2008 - 5:16 AM By Ted Dunnam PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- All-Star Yao Ming collected 22 points and 12 rebounds as the Houston Rockets used a decisive third-quarter run to post a 92-77 victory over the shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.

Rafer Alston had 17 points and nine assists and Shane Battier netted 15 in helping the Rockets record their fifth straight win and ninth in their last 10 games.

Houston, which led, 40-39, at halftime, connected on a barrage of 3-pointers and outscored Cleveland, 32-20, in the third quarter.

"Anytime you move the basketball a little bit better and you make a few shots, the offense starts to flow better," Battier said. "That was the key for us in the third quarter."

After making just 1-of-11 from the long range in the first half, the Rockets found their touch as Alston, Battier, Tracy McGrady and rookie Aaron Brooks each drilled a 3-pointer.

Yao was glad to see the Rockets come out energized in the third.

"We scored on the first five possessions to start the second half," Yao said. "I was thinking, I hope we can stay like this the rest of the game. What we're learning is that you keep fighting and something good will happen."

McGrady, who spent most of the day at the hospital with an upper respiratory infection and strep throat, scored just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.

"We did it all in the second half," McGrady said. "Whatever it took to win this ballgame, we did it in the second half."

LeBron James led the charge with 32 points for Cleveland, which was without Drew Gooden (groin), Anderson Varejao (ankle) and Sasha Pavlovic (foot) due to various injuries.

"We did everything, defensively, we could do, but they just hit their threes in the third quarter," James said. "We had open looks that we missed, but the rebounds really hurt us.

"When you play big teams, (lack of rebounding) is going to affect us. When you have 20 rebounds not here, it obviously hurts. With Yao inside, it's tough when you don't have your bigs."

Cleveland might have suffered another blow to its rotation as reserve Daniel Gibson strained his right hamstring late in the fourth. He will be re-evaluated Friday.