Wallace outduels Yao in All-Star preview


HOUSTON (AP) -- Ben Wallace held up his end in the duel between starting All-Star centers.

Wallace, the starter for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game Feb. 9, scored nine points and had 18 rebounds in the Pistons' 98-74 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

He also held Yao Ming in check. Yao, the starter for the Western Conference who has shown signs of fatigue, played just 23 minutes and had four points and six rebounds for Houston.

"I tried to make him take tough shots, and make decisions,'' Wallace said. "I just wanted to play hard. I didn't want to make a deal about who's starting in the All-Star Game and about me and Yao.

"Just to have a chance to go to the All-Star Game is something I'll remember the rest of my life.''

Cliff Robinson scored 20 points, and Corliss Williamson and
Richard Hamilton each had 18 for Detroit, which snapped a nine-game
losing streak at Compaq Center and held an opponent under 100
points for the 15th straight game.

"The opponent's rebounding ability was too strong,'' Yao said. "They have a very strong center. I thought it would have been goodif we had been able to get them to collapse their defense inside and get the outside guys some looks.''

Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said Wallace was a major influence on the outcome.

"Ben Wallace was tremendous,'' Carlisle said. "Eighteen rebounds. He was just out of this world. Ben makes everybody work hard. He made a couple of plays that were breathtaking. He made one that I've never seen before.''

Steve Francis led Houston with 16 points, and Cuttino Mobley had 14.

The Pistons led 47-41 at halftime and started easing away from
the Rockets in the third quarter, led by Robinson, who started the
quarter with a 3-pointer and had 10 points in the period.

Leading 58-50 in the third, Detroit went on its second 16-6 run
of the game, covering the final six minutes of the period for a
74-56 lead to start the final quarter.

"They outhustled us 17-10 on offensive rebounds,'' Mobley said. "They were getting second shots and then they started scoring easy. They play boring and we fell into their game. We walked it up the court instead of fast breaking and doing the pick-and-roll.

"They stayed in their game and we got away from ours. They know their roles and I don't think we know our rolls yet.''

Francis made Houston's first three baskets and the Rockets built an 18-15 lead late in the first quarter.

The Rockets had a 20-19 lead at the start of the second period,
and they held it until the late stages of the quarter.

Trailing 35-31 late in the second quarter, the Pistons used a 16-6 surge to take their lead at halftime.

"We missed everything inside,'' Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "Execution was no good. We had some pretty good shots. We just couldn't finish them.''

Game notes
Rockets forward Glen Rice worked out Thursday, but his
strained left shoulder kept him out of Friday night's game. ...
Mobley has hit 37 of his last 38 free throws. He was 4-for-4
against Detroit. ... The University of Michigan will retire Rockets
coach Rudy Tomjanovich's jersey at halftime of the Wolverines' game
against Iowa on Feb. 8. Tomjanovich and Cazzie Russell are the only
Michigan players to have their jerseys retired.