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Houston shows teamwork with 34 assists

2/18/2004

HOUSTON (AP) -- Out of the playoffs for the last four years, the
Houston Rockets are approaching the second half of the season with
a little more urgency.

Jim Jackson scored 17 points and Yao Ming had 16 and four
blocked shots to lead the Rockets over the Washington Wizards
107-81 Tuesday night.

"Coach gave us some good advice yesterday in practice," said
Steve Francis, who contributed 11 points and seven assists. "He
really wants us to focus on these last 30 games.

"He told us to think of every game as a one-game playoff
series, and that's what we're going to have to do if we're going to
get where we want to go," he said.

The Rockets improved to 31-22 under first-year coach Jeff Van
Gundy.

Van Gundy was impressed with Houston's 34 assists.

"We did some good things. We made some extra passes," he said.
"I think Steve created a lot of those shots."

Kelvin Cato had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Cuttino Mobley
scored 12 for the Rockets.

"I think the assist numbers were impressive. It just shows we
were able to move the ball around tonight and were able to get guys
open," Francis said.

Etan Thomas had 13 points to lead the Wizards, who lost for the
ninth time in 10 trips to Houston. Washington hasn't won in Houston
since Dec. 6, 2001.

"It's not the end of the world," coach Eddie Jordan said.
"Our bench played well and our starters didn't. We didn't get any
leadership from our veterans. It was a very poor performance from
our starters."

Houston reeled off 12 straight points late in the first quarter
with the help of four consecutive turnovers by Washington. It was
part of a 16-2 run over the final 3:47 of the period that netted a
30-18 lead. Cato had 10 that quarter.

Houston went on a 10-2 run early in the second quarter. Yao had
10 in the period as the lead reached 57-34 after a 10-0 run.

Jackson's 14 points topped the Rockets as they led 57-37 at the
half.

Houston's lead got as big as 31 points in the third quarter. All
five starters had already reached double figures in points and
Houston led 84-53 after three.

The lead reached 34 in the fourth quarter with Rockets' starters
sitting out most of the period.

Game notes
The Rockets are 7-0 when scoring 100 or more points this
season. ... Yao is averaging 18.5 points and 9.9 rebounds in wins
and 13.8 and 7.9 in losses. ... The Rockets are 6-0 when Yao blocks
four shots in a game this season. ...Houston is 9-1 in their first
game after the All-Star break dating to the 1992-93 season. ... The
Wizards 5-21 road record, including 1-7 against the Western
Conference, is the worst in the league.