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Pierce held to four points

1/14/2004

BOSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets weren't about to let the
Boston Celtics show them up again.

Cuttino Mobley scored 24 points, and Yao Ming added 21 points
and 15 rebounds to lead Houston past Boston 95-80 Wednesday night.

After losing to the Celtics 97-93 in Houston on Sunday, the
Rockets felt Boston talked too much trash during the game, and did
too much towel-waving afterward.

So the Rockets circled the return date on their calendar and set
out to deal Boston some payback.

"Our coaches told us no matter what, I don't care what you're
winning by or what you're losing by, you never try to degrade a
team. That's what we felt they did when we were in Houston,"
Rockets guard Steve Francis said. "We didn't talk much trash. I
think we proved it on the court,"

The Rockets won their third straight road game and eclipsed 90
points for the fourth game in a row, their longest such streak this
season. All four games have come following an 85-66 loss to Detroit
on Jan. 7 in which Houston tied a franchise low for points.

Ahead 47-42 at halftime, Houston opened a 16-point lead late in
the third quarter with a 14-4 run. Jimmy Jackson pushed the
Rockets' lead to 57-45 with a 3-pointer, and Scott Padgett made it
64-48 with a 3-pointer with 5:41 left in the third.

"I thought we played well. I'm sure they missed some shots they
normally make. Our guys did a good job defensively," Houston coach
Jeff Van Gundy said.

Celtics star Paul Pierce revealed after the game that he had
sustained a bruise between the middle and index fingers of his left
hand against Milwaukee on Tuesday. He aggravated the injury during
the first quarter Wednesday, and scored a season-low four points on
1-of-10 shooting.

"It went numb and it was difficult to catch and hold the ball.
I'm having X-rays tomorrow and I hope it's not seriously injured,"
Pierce said.

Boston got as close as 82-68 with 5:21 left, but Mobley hit
3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Rockets an 88-70
lead.

Yao scored 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field in the
first half as Houston built a 42-30 lead midway through the second
quarter. Ahead 34-27, the Rockets pushed their lead to 12 with 5:34
left in the first half thanks to eight straight points from Yao,
who scored on two layups, a dunk and a putback.

Yao got his 16th double-double, and showed once again that
Houston's best chance for success on the perimeter comes when Yao
is clogging the lane.

"It opens up everything. We need him to be that dominant,
whether it's shooting his jump shot, setting picks or dumping the
ball inside," Francis said.

Game notes
Before Wednesday night, Yao had averaged just 8.3 points in
three career games against Boston. ... Rockets forward Kelvin Cato
was scratched from the starting lineup and did not play because of
a sprained left foot. ... Houston improved to 14-1 when shooting
above 45 percent from the field. ... Celtics forward Vin Baker
suited up but did not play for the second straight game following
his return from a three-game suspension. ... Pierce, last week's
Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is the only player in the
NBA to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists.