for this game

Yao scores 25 as Rockets win seventh straight

Feb 12, 2008 - 6:18 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The Houston Rockets finally are playing like the team everyone expected to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference.

Yao Ming scored 25 points and shot accurately from the field to lead the Rockets to a 95-83 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

All five starters reached double figures in scoring for Houston, which shot 24-of-28 from the free-throw line en route to its seventh straight win.

"At the start of the game, there wasn't a sense of urgency we needed to have," coach Rick Adelman said of his Rockets, who trailed by six after one quarter and rallied to take a one-point lead at halftime. "We talked at halftime about everybody raising their level (of play). We were playing at a pace that wasn't very good."

"We got our intensity up in the second half like we had the last couple of games," said Yao, who made 7-of-11 from the field.

Point guard Rafer Alston was the first to light up the scoreboard, scoring Houston's first six points of the second half and 13 in the quarter to boost the Rockets to a 69-62 lead after three.

"He got very aggressive," Adelman said of Alston. "They've only got one shot-blocker in there in, (Joel) Przybilla, and Yao takes up so much attention. We should be able to get to the basket."

"We knew we had to come out with some energy to start the third quarter," said Alston, who finished with 17 and seven assists. "Coach raved about it at halftime. We knew it ourselves. We turned the ball over quite a lot in the first half. I know when to pick my times to be aggressive."

The Rockets were a trendy pick to advance in the Western Conference this season after replacing the defensive-minded Jeff Van Gundy with offensive guru Adelman as coach in the offseason.

But a sluggish start, which left them at just 15-17 on January 2, was causing many to temper expectations.

Houston has gone 16-3 since, working its way back into the playoff mix in the West.

The Rockets have reversed what was a disturbing trend of blowing leads in the fourth quarter at home.

"We had a lot of confidence the way we're playing the fourth quarter," Yao said. "Our team plays with a lot of patience now. Portland pushed real hard at the beginning. We just don't want to lose at home before the All-Star break."

Now the Rockets are putting teams away in the fourth quarter.

"We're getting stops, doing it on the defensive end," Alston said.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points on just 10-of-26 for the Trail Blazers.

"They were giving me the shots," Aldridge said. "At times, I was hesitant, and the guys were telling me I have to shoot it. I hurt the team by not shooting when I was open."

Brandon Roy returned to the Blazers after missing the last two games because of a death in the family. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

Shane Battier hounded Roy most of the game.

"Battier is a very good defender and he made Brandon work hard all game," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "Shane's energy is used to take out one of the top scorers each game. He has the freedom to really gamble with Yao back inside and he made some big defensive plays against us."

"We're playing sound basketball," Battier said. "Tracy (McGrady) and Yao are bringing us home. We're cutting down on our turnovers."

The Blazers lost their third in a row, all on the road.

"We're not sneaking up on teams like we did early in the season," Roy said.