ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Houston Rockets can once again look
forward to visiting central Florida.
Yao Ming scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half and
grabbed 11 rebounds as Houston broke an 11-year losing streak in
Orlando by beating the Magic 91-81 Wednesday night.
"The last time we won here, Snoop Dogg was still a puppy,"
said relieved Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich.
The last time the Rockets won a regular-season game in Orlando
was Dec. 22, 1991. For the record, the rap musician was then 19
years old and two years away from releasing his first album.
Yao let his presence be known early, sinking a first-quarter
layup over Shawn Kemp then shouting ``And one!'' when the foul was
called. He shot 8-of-14 en route to his 11th double-double of the
season and second of the week.
"It was definitely part of the plan to get the ball inside,"
Yao said through an interpreter.
Steve Francis scored 12 of his 16 points in the third quarter
and Cuttino Mobley had 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Eddie Griffin added 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocked
shots, and Glen Rice had 10 points as all five of Houston's
starters reached double figures.
The Magic, who had won 14 of 15 from Houston, shot 35.6 percent,
including 4-for-15 on 3-pointers. They also had nine shots blocked,
eight in the first half.
"Yao, Eddie and (Kelvin) Cato did a marvelous job down there
inside as we were out playing defense on the guards," Francis
said. "That's what you need; you need a front core of your defense
and also a back end, a last line of defense."
"We took a lot of mid-range shots, which you should take
against a big team, but when they don't fall early each shot
becomes tougher," Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought by
the third quarter our guys were guiding every shot they took."
Houston closed the first half with a 15-2 run for a 10-point
edge at the break. Yao had the burst's first eight points and
Moochie Norris sank a shot clock-beating 3-pointer to put the
Rockets up 49-39.
Orlando cut its deficit to six points early in the third
quarter, but the Rockets then put the game away with a 13-4 run.
Francis scored eight points in the tear, and his jumper with 2:41
left in the period gave Houston a 67-53 lead.
The Rockets led by as many as 18 in the final quarter.
Orlando played its sixth straight game without injured forward
Grant Hill, who is beset with chronic tendinitis in his left ankle.
He has missed 11 of Orlando's 37 games, while playing 10 minutes or
less in three others.
Houston shot 25-for-26 from the foul line, making 20
straight free throws to open the game. Maurice Taylor's miss with
5:43 remaining broke the streak. ... Before the game, Houston
waived injured forward Pete Mickeal. Mickeal, who hadn't played
this season, was placed on the injured list with foot problems on