<
>

Stojakovic scores game-high 31 points in loss

2/3/2003

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Sacramento Kings found out just how far Yao Ming has come since the beginning of the season.

Yao had 18 points, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots and a
season-high six assists as the Houston Rockets beat the Kings
105-89 Sunday.

"Every time I play him, he continues to get better and
better,'' Sacramento's Vlade Divac said. "He's definitely going to
be a great player in this league. I really like the way he thinks
on the court. He plays very unselfishly and understands the concept
of the game.''

In early December, Sacramento and Houston split two games in
which Yao had a combined 25 points and 20 rebounds. He was much
improved this time, as he notched his team-leading 15th double-double.

"We passed the ball a lot today so there were a lot of open
shots,'' Yao said.

Eddie Griffin led the Rockets with 22 points while Steve Francis
and Cuttino Mobley scored 21 each.

"I was doing a lot of cutting and Yao found me a lot of
times,'' Mobley said. "That's what he's supposed to do. We try to
work it inside first and then he works it back out. It's a lot
easier for us if we work it inside first.''

Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich agreed.

"Yao was tremendous inside moving the ball around and
scoring,'' Tomjanovich said. "On offense, he puts their defense in
a very vulnerable position. If you turn your head, we've got guys
cutting and you don't know who to help. He's got a great feel for
open people.''

Sacramento coach Rick Adelman was unhappy with his team's effort
coming off a 124-113 loss to the Lakers on Friday.

"They were aggressive and took it to us and we were the
opposite,'' Adelman said. "They played the game with more energy
and took advantage of it. They were very good and we were very
bad.''

Peja Stojakovic led the Kings with 31 points.

Houston took an early 13-2 lead as the Kings missed eight of
their first nine shots from the field.

Yao, Griffin and Francis sparked a 12-3 run late in the period
as the Rockets expanded their lead to 29-9 with 2:47 left in the
quarter. Houston had a 32-12 lead at the end of the period as
Griffin had 11 and Yao 8.

Houston shot 65 percent (15-of-23) in the first while Sacramento
hit only 22 percent (5-of-23) in the quarter and just 29 percent
(12-of-42) for the half.

Houston's biggest lead was 59-32 when Terrence Morris hit a shot
with 9 seconds to go before halftime.

Stojakovic had 19 in the third quarter to help keep the Kings
from getting blown out. But Griffin had 11 and Mobley and Yao seven
apiece as the Rockets led 88-66 after three.

Game notes
Kelvin Cato did not dress because of sore hips he injured
against Minnesota Friday. He's expected back Tuesday when the
Rockets are at Minnesota. ... The Kings are now 5-3 without Chris
Webber, who's out at least three weeks with a sprained left ankle.
... The 12 points the Kings scored in the first quarter tied a
season-low by a Houston opponent (set by Denver Jan. 11). ...
Houston tied a season-high with 13 blocks and is now 19-1 when
blocking eight or more shots.