for this game

Yao pours in 28 as Rockets crush Hawks

Feb 10, 2008 - 5:30 AM By Jim Carley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- After getting their work done early, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady got a chance to sit back and enjoy a nice, relaxing fourth quarter.

Yao scored 28 points and pulled down nine rebounds in just 31 minutes as the Houston Rockets crushed the Atlanta Hawks, 108-89, on Saturday.

McGrady added 15 points and rookie Luis Scola chipped in 14 on 7-of-9 shooting for the Rockets, who have won six straight and 10 of their last 11. It was the fourth game in a row in which Houston has held its opponent under 90 points.

The Rockets knew the Hawks were coming in one night after losing to Cleveland, 100-95.

"I'm not surprised (with the blowout)," McGrady said. "We knew they had played a tough one (Friday) so we talked about how we just had to hit them hard in the first quarter.

"Then, we just had to keep going and let them know they didn't have a chance."

The Rockets hit four of their first five shots to start the game and stayed hot most of the first half. Houston outscored Atlanta, 10-2, as Scola had four points and four rebounds in the opening minutes.

With Scola hitting 4-of-4, Rafer Alston nailing 3-of-4 and Yao connecting on 3-of-5 from the field, the Rockets shot a torrid 56.5 percent (13-of-23) in the first quarter.

Each of the three had eight points to help Houston, which led by as many as 14 in the quarter, to a 31-21 advantage at the end of the period.

"This was a great job on our guys' part," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "Our guys were ready to play. I thought we were doing what we wanted to do defensively from the beginning, trying to make them a jump-shooting team."

That was especially good for the 7-6 Yao, who towered over a starting Atlanta lineup that had no player taller than 6-10. That player was Al Horford, who led the way for the hapless Hawks' starters with eight points and eight rebounds.

"We wanted to just keep pushing them out, let them shoot as far out as we could get them," Yao said. "When they don't have an inside game, that works even better."

McGrady had a team-high eight assists as Houston recorded a season-high 32. That came just one game after setting the previous season high of 29 against Cleveland.

"We just have moved the ball and passed really well lately," Adelman said. "We're seeing what's there and we're not keeping it on one side of the court. We have player movement and ball movement. Tracy was really good as far as finding guys and getting them the ball."

Hawks coach Mike Woodson could not explain the lackluster performance by his team.

"We can't make any excuses," Woodson said. "We just didn't show up and should have stayed at the hotel. Our starters were lethargic, and Houston is a very good team and they came to play. Our energy level to start the game was non-existent."

His players agreed.

"They jumped on us early and didn't look back," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "It's very hard to get back in the game against a 7-6 center who can make all kinds of shots from everywhere on the court.

"We started the game off slowly, and Yao got it going for them. He's a great passer out of double teams and he discouraged us early on."

With a comfortable, 88-55, lead after three quarters, Yao and McGrady sat on the bench and watched their teammates lock up the win.

Seldom-used reserve Steve Novak scored nine points in the final 6:31 and rookie Aaron Brooks added seven points in the final quarter as their more famous teammates cheered and laughed from the bench.

The hot shooting continued in the second quarter as the Rockets scored the first seven points of the period. Bonzi Wells came off the bench to pour in nine points and help Houston lead by as many as 25 in the second quarter.

Yao finished the first half with 14 points as the Rockets hit 57.5 percent (23-of-40) of their shots from the field. By contrast, Atlanta hit only 28 percent (12-of-43) as Houston led 56-31 at the break.

Yao continued his domination inside in the third quarter, pouring in 12 points in the period as the Rockets maintained a 30-point advantage throughout most of the quarter. He had 26 at the end of the period as Houston led by 23 points.

Zaza Pachulia was the only player to reach double figures with 11 points for the Hawks, who finished the game shooting 37 percent (32-of-86) from the floor and have lost two in a row.

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