Wafer helps shorthanded Rockets top JazzJan 22, 2009 - 5:54 AM By Gene Duffy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Von Wafer filled in nicely for injured Tracy McGrady on Wednesday.
Wafer scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half to ignite the Houston Rockets to a 108-99 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Wafer, who needed to survive the last cut to make the roster, has added instant offense for the last two months with his outside shooting and silky drives to the basket.
"I just try to play hard and not get in the way of Yao (Ming) and what we're trying to do out there," Wafer said. "I feel I'm getting more comfortable out there, getting more familiar with situations, the atmosphere and the intensity."
When Utah charged within 91-87 with 2:49 to play, Wafer threw in the biggest basket of the game, a 3-pointer from the right corner to keep the Jazz at a distance.
"All the shots were the same," Wafer said, although he hadn't scored in the second half until then. "It's all rhythm."
Wafer received a lot of praise from his teammates after the game.
"We know he can score," Rafer Alston said. "He is surprising us with his consistency. Before this year, he hasn't been a rotation guy or playing major minutes, much less starting. He's been terrific for us."
"He has a lot of energy," Yao Ming added. "We get great help from him on the offensive side. He challenges the basket and makes those open threes. He's making his own plays right now. He played consistently for 10 games."
Alston poured in 23 points and Yao and Luis Scola finished with 19 apiece for Houston, which has won three games in a row and six of its last seven despite injuries to McGrady and Ron Artest.
"We'll be in even better shape when those two guys come back," Yao said. "They will carry us in March and April and in the playoffs."
Although he made his first NBA start December 8 at Memphis, Wafer did not play at all in 18 of Houston's games before the New Year.
"I don't think our guys knew who he was to start the game," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "He is a high-energy guy and he believes he can score."
This served as a measure of revenge for Houston, which has lost to Utah in the first round of the playoffs the last two years.
"It could happen again this year," Alston said of the possible playoff matchup. "I'd love to see someone else. Two years ago, we had everybody and they just beat us. They showed they were a better team through seven games. Last year, we were hurt."
"Utah has a very strong team, very disciplined," Yao added. "Playoffs are another story. The game is different, the contact is different. It's still the middle of the season."
Deron Williams collected 22 of his 32 points in the second half as Utah charged back from a 55-42 halftime deficit with Yao in foul trouble.
"We got down early and it put us in a tough predicament and we couldn't recover," Williams said of his Jazz, who never led in the game. "I thought we came out slow and sluggish and it cost us the ball game."
Andrei Kirilenko did not dress for Utah with inflammed right ankle in addition to Carlos Boozer still being out after surgery on his left knee.
HOUSTON 108 FINAL
Jan 21 10:57 PM
HOUSTON 80 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 21 10:19 PM
HOUSTON 55 HALFTIME
Jan 21 9:36 PM
HOUSTON 31 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 21 9:05 PM
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