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Rockets win despite cold offense

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets would have rather had New
Year's Eve off, though they were able to celebrate a victory.

Yao Ming scored 21 points and Cuttino Mobley had 20 to help the
Rockets beat Philadelphia 80-72 on Wednesday night.

"I hate playing on holidays," said Maurice Taylor, who had
eight points. "But we just have to go out and do our jobs."

Steve Francis added 15 points as the Rockets ended a two-game
home losing streak.

"We had to start the New Year off right," Mobley said. "We
didn't play our best, but we won. I guess we're making progress."

Kenny Thomas had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Greg Buckner had
13 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers. They have lost four
straight, all on the road, and are 4-7 with Allen Iverson --
sidelined by a right knee contusion -- out of the lineup.

"We had no defensive toughness at all," 76ers coach Randy
Ayers said. "For us to be a competitive team in this league, we
have to be tough. You have to make guys get up the court and play
aggressive defense."

Thomas, a former Rocket, was playing his first game back in
Houston.

"It's just like another game," Thomas said. "All that is
over. It felt good to play here. I like the city of Houston and
this is where my family is and where I will retire. I have two
homes, in Philly and in Houston."

Houston scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter to take
its biggest lead at 70-56. The 76ers missed their first eight shots
of the period.

"I liked the start of the fourth quarter," Rockets coach Jeff
Van Gundy said. "It's always good to win. I think some guys did
some good things. Even though (the 76ers) were undermanned, they
play hard and are well coached and always play you close."

After trailing by six at the half, the 76ers closed to 58-56
after three quarters, with Buckner scoring six points in the
period.

The 76ers missed 10 of their first 14 shots and fell behind
20-12 in the first 8:24.

The Rockets went cold in the second quarter, missing 13 of their
first 15 shots from the field. Philadelphia went on a 15-5 run
during that time to take a 30-29 lead with 3:52 left.

Game notes
Clarence Weatherspoon, acquired from New York on Tuesday in
a deal that sent Moochie Norris and John Amaechi to the Knicks, was
not in uniform. ... It was the fourth time in team history, and
second consecutive, that the Rockets have played on New Year's Eve.
The first two times were as the San Diego Rockets. ... The 76ers
are 0-10 when trailing after three quarters on the road

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