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Rockets end six-game slide against Kings

HOUSTON (AP) -- Yao Ming proved to be the difference for the Houston Rockets to snap their nine-game skid against Sacramento.

Steve Francis scored 32 points and Yao had six crucial points in the closing minutes as the Rockets almost blew a 19-point lead before snapping the Kings' six-game winning streak, 103-96 Tuesday night.

"It was like eating a great meal,'' Yao said. "Steve has been continually telling me to be physical so I keep trying to do that.''

The Rockets had to fight in the closing minutes to keep their
first victory over the Kings since March 28, 1999.

"It was just a great win over a team that has had it over us for a long time,'' Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We knew they'd make a run at us and they did.

"We talked about it before the third quarter. But all the things you don't do, we did. We went cold, we had miscues and they took advantage of it.''

Leading 89-84 with 5:17 to play, Yao hit a hook shot and moments later a short jumper for a 93-84 lead. Yao also had two free throws with 55 seconds to play and finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

Chris Webber led the Kings' comeback attempt with 19 of his 30 points in the second half. Bobby Jackson added 27.

"We had a poor second quarter. We just didn't play defense,'' Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We tried to get back in it but we were just too far down. Houston played a great game. I really like that team.

"They have a great group of guys and the big guy is only going to get better.''

Houston extended its home winning streak to seven games.

Cuttino Mobley and Eddie Griffin came off the bench to lead a
25-13 Rockets spurt in the second quarter that ended with a
38-point period, Houston's most points for a quarter this season
and a 62-45 halftime lead.

"It's like I said a couple of days ago, we needed to win,'' Francis said. "Us being a team that's learning how to win, this was a good step. Just to play defense the way we did against a contender should really help us.''

Griffin had to take a detour before entering the game. He took
off his warmup and discovered he'd forgotten to put on his jersey.
He went to the locker room to get his jersey before entering the
game.

Webber led a 15-4 charge to start the third quarter to get the
Kings within 66-60 with 6:15 to go in the period. Webber had 11
points in the quarter.

Francis then hit a 3-pointer basket and fed off to Glen Rice for
an alley-oop for a 71-60 advantage and the Rockets held an 81-71
lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

Webber stayed hot in the fourth quarter and the Kings got it
down to 89-84 with 5:17 to play.

"That's my job, to rally the troops and get things going,'' Webber said. "Tonight it didn't work. We really came out flat and Francis is just an awesome player. He controls the tempo of the game and he did that tonight.''

Mobley scored nine quick points in the opening minutes of the
second quarter and then Griffin came on and scored 11 points over a
five-minute span.

Game notes
The victory moved Tomjanovich past Alex Hannum into 24th place on the NBA's career list with 472 victories. ... Yao has double-doubles in four straight games. ... Sacramento's backcourt duo of Doug Christie and Jackson have scored in double figures in 13 of their last 15 games. ... Houston's 62 first-half points were the most it has scored in a half this season.

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