Yao had 29 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots to lead the
Houston Rockets to a 95-83 victory Wednesday night over the team
that held Yao scoreless in his NBA debut.
Yao, who had only recently arrived in the United States, was a
nonfactor in limited action in the Rockets' opening night 91-82
loss in Indianapolis. Nearly two months later, he scored five
straight points in the waning moments to help Houston preserve a
lead it held most of the game.
The soft-spoken 7-foot-5 Shanghai native said he was much more
relaxed this go-round.
"I was breathing a lot easier on the court," he said.
The Pacers kept it close throughout the second half and were
within 78-76 before Yao dropped in a finger roll with 2:54 left. He
followed with a free throw and a baseline shot over Brad Miller
that gave Houston a seven-point lead.
Indiana had a scare with 2:23 left when forward Jermaine O'Neal
fell to the floor holding his left knee, causing him to hobble off
the court with assistance. Team officials first said it was only a
mild sprain, then backtracked and said he would have an MRI Thursday.
The Rockets (14-10) won despite shooting 38 percent. Houston was
able to take 10 more shots thanks to a season-high 60 rebounds,
compared to just 34 for Indiana.
"The whole game we could not rebound the basketball. If you
can't rebound, you can't win," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said.
"We did a good job defensively, because we would make the stop,
but they would get the rebound. In this league, the way we got
pounded on the boards, we shouldn't have been in this game."
Yao's 29 points was one short of his season-high. The No. 1
overall draft pick did set a new personal best for blocks.
O'Neal led Indiana with 27 and Ron Artest had 23.
The game stayed close through much of the first half until Yao,
after a rest, flashed some moves for an appreciative crowd of
13,281 and coach Rudy Tomjanovich.
First, Yao took the ball underneath the backboard and broke out
a nifty back-and-forth move perfected by longtime Rockets superstar
Hakeem Olajuwon. The shot, over Brad Miller, was part of an 11-4
run in the second period.
Yao followed with a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-style hook shot over
Miller, then used a turnaround jumper for six straight points.
"Yao is so inspiring," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.
"It just gives me goose bumps sometimes after he makes a play, to
hear that buzz in the crowd, people saying, 'Could you believe
that?' It was reminiscent of when Dream (Olajuwon) was here."
The Pacers got the message.
"He's so tall. When we played them last time, he had only one
move," said Miller, who scored 16. "Now he's playing with
confidence and his teammates have a lot of confidence in him -- they
went to him late in the game. He's not a selfish player: He's a
good passer for a big man, and he gives them opportunities to make
Both teams shot poorly in the first half, but Houston got away
with it because the Rockets pulled down twice as many rebounds,
including nine by backup center Kelvin Cato in 10 minutes spelling
The Rockets led 44-34 at halftime, marking Indiana's lowest
output for a half this season, but the Pacers made amends in the
opening minutes of the third quarter by erasing the deficit with a
The Rockets played one man short following the trade of
Kenny Thomas to Philadelphia earlier in the evening. The deal
brought to Denver small forward James Posey to Houston. Posey was
expected in town Thursday. ... The Rockets announced they will
begin a weekly one-hour local television program done entirely in
Chinese. Yao and Clippers center Wang ZhiZhi will be interviewed
for the inaugural program this Saturday.