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Yao's sprained knee not considered serious

1/12/2003

HOUSTON (AP) -- Yao Ming was finished before the first quarter was over. Glen Rice joined him in the locker room early in the third quarter.

With those two players and Maurice Taylor sidelined, the Rockets turned to their newest acquisition to hold off the Denver Nuggets.

James Posey scored 18 points with four assists and four rebounds Saturday night in his first game against his former team, helping Houston hold off the Denver Nuggets 87-85.

Yao, the 7-foot-6 center from China, had six points and six rebounds in 11 minutes. He injured his left knee while fighting for position with Nuggets center Nene Hilario with 7:40 remaining in the first quarter.

"He felt a little pain there and did the smart thing,'' Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "I didn't get a real concerned look from the trainer.''

Yao, who was called for a foul on the play, stayed in the game for almost seven more minutes before leaving for good. Rockets spokesman Nelson Luis said Yao's injury was not serious, and the team did not plan to have the knee X-rayed.

Yao, who did not comment after the game, will be re-evaluated Sunday.

Posey had his best offensive game since being acquired from
Denver last month, scoring 11 more than his previous high with
Houston and hitting a pair of 3-pointers to stave off a late rally.

"I actually felt like I was a part of things,'' Posey said.

Steve Francis scored 25 points and Cuttino Mobley added 16 for
the Rockets, who were also without Maurice Taylor (sore Achilles
tendon) for the entire game and Rice (strained left shoulder) for
most of the second half.

Juwan Howard scored 19 and Junior Harrington 17 as the Nuggets were denied their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Yao helped the Rockets take the lead for good, hitting Mobley
with a bounce pass as he cut to the basket for a 13-12 lead.

Early in the second quarter, Tomjanovich announced "Yao's done'' to his team during a timeout.

Posey helped give the Rockets their first double-digit lead,
driving the lane and passing to Mobley for a corner 3-pointer that
made it 25-15 early in the second quarter.

Mobley hit a jumper as the 24-second clock expired for a 50-35
lead early in the third, and Francis swished a 3 as the shot clock
expired on Houston's next possession to increase the lead to 17.

Houston led 63-50 entering the fourth, but the Nuggets didn't
quit.

Hilario scored five points and Howard four in a 9-0 run that cut
Houston's lead to 74-69. After a miss by the Rockets, Hilario was
called for charging while bringing the ball upcourt, and Posey hit
a 3-pointer.

Harrington scored the next four points to cut the deficit to four, but Posey again answered with a 3-pointer -- this one as the shot clock expired -- to make it 80-73.

"I couldn't be happier for the guy,'' Tomjanovich said. "Couldn't be better timing for a breakout game.''

After averaging 13.9 points for Denver in the first 25 games of
the season and reaching 20 points on seven occasions, Posey had not
scored more than seven points in any of his games with the Rockets.

"Offensively, it's going to take some time finding his niche for us,'' Tomjanovich said before the game.

Actually, what it took was a couple of injuries.

Hilario made two foul shots with 14.1 seconds remaining to make it 83-80, but Francis made a pair with 10.9 remaining and Posey made one of two with 6.2 seconds left to help secure the win.

"That's been us all year. We play hard, and at the end of the
game we have a chance to win -- but just come up a little short,''
Harrington said.

Game notes
Denver's 12 points in the first quarter and 33 in the first
half were season-lows for a Rockets opponent. ... Nuggets C Marcus
Camby, who has not yet played this season following hip surgery,
contradicted himself when asked if he thought he'd be able to play
against his former team, the Knicks, in New York on Jan. 22. After
first saying "there's not a sense of urgency to play against those
guys,'' Camby went on to say: "I'm dying to get back and see all
the familiar faces and the great fans in New York, and hopefully
I'll be able to play.'' ... Houston's final casualty of the night
was Mobley's cell phone, which fell into a bucket of ice in the
locker room.