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Yao's 12-for-15 night from field stumps N.Y.

HOUSTON (AP) -- This time, the Houston Rockets made their run in
the second quarter.

Yao Ming had a season-high 29 points and 10 rebounds to help the
Rockets beat New York 86-71 on Wednesday night, handing Lenny
Wilkens his first loss as coach of the Knicks.

Wilkens won his first three games after replacing Don Chaney on
Jan. 15, and the Knicks had won four straight overall.

The game was similar to Jan. 8, when the Rockets humbled the
Knicks 111-79 in Madison Square Garden, jumping out to a 23-2 lead
in the first quarter. Houston didn't heat up until getting behind
this time.

"Yao was obviously the dominant force," Rockets coach Jeff Van
Gundy said. "When he makes his jump shot, he's really hard to
guard. They played two types of defenders on him . I thought he did
a good job playing to his strength against each guy."

The Knicks got the early jump, bursting to a 20-8 lead. Houston
hit only four of its first 18 shots and was 5-for-19 in the opening
period, while the Knicks hit 46 percent.

From that 12-point deficit, the Rockets outscored the Knicks
39-15 to take a 47-35 lead at the half. Maurice Taylor had nine
second quarter points and finished with 21.

The Knicks tried to slow Yao with Dikembe Mutombo and Michael
Doleac, but Yao kept shooting. He hit 12 of 15 field goals.

"We wanted to be aggressive," Wilkens said. "Yeah, shut down
the backcourt but Mo Taylor and Yao Ming killed us," Wilkens said.
"We had good energy but we got anxious and we never got Allan
(Houston) off the mark.

"I was surprised to see us so anxious."

The Knicks scored only nine points in the second quarter -- a
season low for a Houston opponent -- and didn't get a basket in the
period until Mutombo's scored with 5:33 left.

With Houston down 26-16 at the start of the second quarter,
Taylor scored nine points in a four-minute span, including a layup
with 8:57 to go that gave Houston its first lead, 27-26.

"That's what coach asked me to do," Taylor said. When he puts
me in the game, early he told me to bring us some energy and get us
going a little bit. That's what I try to do."

Yao returned after sitting out much of the first quarter with
two fouls and contributed six points down the stretch to halftime.

Allan Houston and Penny Hardaway each had 12 points to lead the
Knicks, and Keith Van Horn added 11.

The Rockets were able to slow down the Knicks.

"We should play a little more uptempo but when you get in a
halfcourt game, you really have to execute," Wilkens said. "You
have to know your offense so well that you can help get the guys
open that you want to have the ball."

Yao was pleased with the Rockets victory but he was disappointed
at not setting a career high point record or playing on the Chinese
New Year.

"I hate games on holidays," Yao said. "It should be a day to
rest. I should be at home watching TV and playing video games."

Game notes
The Knicks signed center Bruno Sundov to a 10-day contract
and placed forward Michael Sweetney on the injured list because of
patella tendinitis. ... Knicks guard Moochie Norris returned to
Houston for the first time since the Rockets traded him. "It's
like playing against your brother," Rockets guard Steve Francis
said. ... The Rockets are 10-3 and have won eight in a row when Yao
scores 20 or more points.

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