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Head picks up Rockets in win over Wizards

Jan 9, 2008 - 4:13 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Luther Head scored a season-high 24 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 92-84 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.

Making his fifth start in the absence of the injured Tracy McGrady, Head made four 3-pointers and scored in double-figures for the sixth consecutive game.

"We know he can shoot the ball, and that's what he's on our team to do," said Rafer Alston, who had 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. "Once in the first quarter we saw that he had a good rhythm, I started looking for him more and started calling some plays for him to get a good look at the basket."

Head's 3-pointer gave Houston an 86-73 lead with 5:26 left.

"He's a smart player," said Yao Ming, who had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Rockets, who have won five in a row against the Wizards. "Everybody knows he's a shooter who can knock down the three consistently, but also he has quick speed and can cut to the basket. Tonight, he had a baseline cut and I gave it to him. He has a lot of different ways to score, not just by hitting threes, which add up.

"In the last 10 games, I saw that he's had a big improvement every day and in every game. I'm happy for him - just keep doing it." Head tallied 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the third quarter - including two 3-pointers - and the Rockets led 74-63 after three.

"Hopefully I can continue to have some confidence to take some shots so we're not trying to depend on Yao (Ming) so much," Head said. "I still think I passed up a couple (of shots) tonight.

"When I see Yao, it's always a target that I feel like should get the ball every time he has somebody on his back because he's so effective, but I'm trying to have more confidence. If we don't help him by knocking down some shots, we're going to lose games."

Yao more than welcomes Head's hot shooting hand.

"In the last few games, we've had at least four people score in double-figures and a couple of guys close to that," Yao said. "We share the ball very well. We share the ball very well, and it makes me feel much easier and I feel a lot of balance in the team. I like it." Houston has won six of its last nine games despite playing without McGrady for the last seven.

"It shows the depth that we have this year," Alston said. "Guys aren't hesitant now like in previous years when Tracy was out. Guys are becoming confident and understanding they have to attack with the basketball.

"Tonight, I knew that on the pick-and-roll I could turn the corner on them and get in that lane. If they didn't step up, I could put the teardrop over them. If they stepped up, I could kick it out to our 3-point shooters or dump it down to Yao, which is almost a sure basket. So we were trying to put them in the pick-and-roll as much as possible tonight."

The Rockets, who have swept their last two sets of back-to-back games, were playing the first of another such set with a visit to New York on tap for Wednesday night.

After Antawn Jamison's two free throws pulled the Wizards to 45-43, the Rockets closed the second quarter with a 7-0 run and led 52-43 at halftime.

Head scored seven straight points midway through the first quarter, capped by a layup on the run that gave Houston a 25-14 lead. The Rockets never trailed thereafter.

"With Yao, you're going to get shots," said Head, who scored 11 points in the first quarter. "If he doesn't have confidence in you, who's he going to have confidence in? Whenever you get a pass from Yao, you've got to try to make some shots to help him out because he gets so much attention and he does so much for the team."

Head said most of his points came strictly from running the offense - very unlike most of McGrady's productivity off isolation plays.

"When Tracy has the ball, it's more of just give him the ball and get the hell out of the way," Head said. "But we don't have him. We're playing through Yao and just running our regular offense. We're just moving and running a lot of pick-and-rolls and getting the ball to the open man."

Jamison had 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting to lead the Wizards, whose two-game winning streak ended. Brendan Haywood had 13 points and six rebounds. Reserve rookie guard Nick Young added 13 points in 20 minutes.

"We didn't play as well as we've been playing or as well as we're capable of playing," said Antonio Daniels, who had two points, two assists and two turnovers for Washington. "We didn't push the basketball. It's one we hate to give away."

Caron Butler had 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists for Washington.

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