for this game

Yao, Rockets stop Magic in their tracks

Nov 23, 2008 - 4:26 AM By Zach Chalifour PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- The Houston Rockets cooled off a hot team on Saturday, taking control late en route to a 100-95 victory to snap the Orlando Magic's five-game winning streak.

Yao Ming collected 22 points and 13 boards and Tracy McGrady added 17 points as Houston won its third straight.

Despite both the Magic and Rockets playing on back-to-back nights - picking up road wins over Indiana and Washington, respectively - the two teams put forth strong efforts in a contest that saw 18 lead changes and 13 ties.

"This was a very important game for us," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "With both teams coming off a back-to-back, we had talked about trying to get off to a quick start. To get two road wins on a back-to-back is nice; it's good for us."

Ron Artest's jumper with 3:33 left gave the Rockets a six-point lead and they were able to hang on from there.

Yao and the Rockets won the battle of the big men from the start, as the All-Star center scored 10 points over the first 4:12 of the game.

"We had no resistance against Yao early in the game, let him get the ball deep in the paint against us and he got it going," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Artest finished with 11 points and Rafer Alston added 17 and seven assists against a Magic team that lacked the personnel to keep up with the visiting Rockets.

With Hedo Turkoglu out of action due to the flu and Dwight Howard in foul trouble early and often, the rest of Orlando's team was left with a significant void to fill.

"It's definitely a big help," Adelman said. "Not having him on the court is a huge, huge difference for them at both ends of the court."

Jameer Nelson collected 21 points and six assists with support from a strong effort by Orlando's reserves.

A weak spot for most of the season, the Magic's bench - led by J.J. Redick's 13 points - did its part to keep Orlando in contention until the last few minutes of the game.

"We came up a little short," Nelson said. "They're pretty good. In the end, we didn't make shots down the stretch. We got good looks at the basket. They obviously got good looks and they made some tough shots."

Nursing a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Rockets went on a modest 11-5 run to take a 97-90 advantage - and hung on from there. Yao buried three buckets during the run, including a nifty turnaround jumper with 1:52 remaining to extend the lead to six.

"If he can do that consistently, we will be a very good team, especially coming down the stretch of games because he is surrounded by shooters," McGrady said. "He is also surrounded by playmakers. We are leaning on him."

Meanwhile, it was Houston's suffocating defense that took away Orlando's two biggest weapons - Howard and perimeter shooting. The Magic hit just 7-of-27 from 3-point range on the night, while Howard was held to just four first-half points in only seven minutes of action due to foul trouble.

He picked up his fourth foul 37 seconds into the third quarter and was not a significant factor thereafter, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Rashard Lewis added 18 points but was just 6-of-21 from the field.

"It's frustrating," Lewis said. "The shots were there, we just couldn't hit them when it counted. The bench needed to play well and did that in the second half, but we couldn't quite get it done."

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