Francis, Yao allow Rockets to hold off Grizzlies


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- If Yao Ming was tired, he didn't look it.

Yao, who has seen his minutes reduced lately, had 13 points and
10 rebounds in 29 minutes of the Houston Rockets' 100-95 victory
over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.

It was the second consecutive game Yao has scored in double
figures after scoring only six points against Dallas on Jan. 21 and
four against Detroit three days later.

Those performances led to speculation that Yao, a 7-foot-6
center from China, might be feeling the rookie fatigue that often
hits NBA newcomers around midseason.

Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said the adjustment to the NBA
can be tough for players like Yao who are not accustomed to 82
games a season and the more physical style of American play.

"You just know his production has gone down some, and in a way
it isn't important to define. It's just to weather it and get
through it,'' Tomjanovich said.

Yao said the Grizzlies were rough on the boards.

"There were not a lot of offensive rebounds for us tonight
because their defense is very good,'' Yao said through an
interpreter. "They are a strong rebounding team.''

While Memphis had 44 rebounds to 43 for the Rockets, the
Grizzlies led 17-11 on the offensive glass.

Steve Francis led Houston with 22 points.

Yao scored his final points on two free throws with less than 20
seconds left. Francis made two more with 3 seconds remaining to
wrap up the victory and end Houston's four-game losing skid.

Jason Williams, who had 15 points and eight assists, scored the
last points for Memphis on a 3-pointer from the right wing with
less than six seconds left. The Grizzlies have dropped three
Memphis coach Hubie Brown said the Grizzlies made costly
mistakes in the closing minutes of the game.

"The last quarter we fouled three guys which resulted in
three-point plays. In the NBA, when you foul someone you don't let
him get the shot off,'' Brown said.

Houston's biggest lead of the final period, 78-70, came at 8:20
on a three-point play by Cuttino Mobley, who had 16 points.

Memphis closed to 80-79 at 5:28 on a left-hand hook in the lane
by Pau Gasol, but the Rockets never relinquished the lead.

Gasol led Memphis with 26 points, while Drew Gooden had 19
points and 11 rebounds. Gordan Giricek had 14 points.

Maurice Taylor had 16 points off the bench for Houston and James
Posey added 14.

The Rockets held a 43-42 lead at the half after a second quarter
in which the lead changed eight times in the last seven minutes.
Taylor scored 11 points in the second period.

Memphis twice led by eight in the opening quarter.

Game notes
The Rockets hold a 22-8 advantage in the series, though
Memphis had beaten Houston in each of their previous three meetings
at the Pyramid. ... Houston's 24-19 record is a considerable
improvement over last year, when the Rockets were 13-29 midway
through the season. ... Grizzlies F Stromile Swift missed his fifth
game in a row with a sprained right hand. Wesley Person missed his
fourth game with an injured right index finger. He was placed on
the injured list Dec. 30 after breaking the finger and was
activated Jan. 17.