Yao rebounded the carom and went on to make the winning free
throws with 15.2 seconds left, leading the Rockets to a 103-102
victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
"I knew I could make that because I had missed too many
before," said Yao, apparently unaware that he went 5-of-6 from the
line en route to 23 points. "It's great to get the win."
Los Angeles forward Brian Cook missed a potential winning
3-pointer with 2.9 seconds to play, and the Lakers fumbled away the
ensuing rebound as the clock expired.
Cook flashed a pained smile as the Rockets stormed onto the
court, and Yao pumped his fist before running into a mob of
teammates to celebrate another close win.
"When it came off my fingers it felt good," Cook said. "If I
had that shot again, I'd take it 10 more times."
Odom scored 14 of his 22 points in the final period, and Chucky
Atkins added 21 for the Lakers, who came up just short in their bid
to win for the first time under interim coach Frank Hamblen.
Hamblen took over Wednesday when Rudy Tomjanovich resigned as
head coach, citing health concerns. Hamblen, a 57-year-old career
assistant, again lobbied for the return of Phil Jackson before the
Hamblen said that he'd spoken with Tomjanovich on Friday.
Tomjanovich was headed to Hawaii this weekend for a brief getaway
with his wife, Hamblen said. "He's in a lot better spirits,"
The Lakers really could've used the late-game poise of Jackson
and Kobe Bryant, who hasn't played since Jan. 13 when he severely
sprained his right ankle.
The Rockets led by 16 at one point in the fourth quarter and
seemed well on their way to an easy victory. But Odom emerged from
a three-quarter funk to almost single-handedly rally the Lakers.
"My focus just shifted the second half," Odom said. "I just
had to think, 'To the hole, to the hole' until I started making
plays. Then I knew I was in a rhythm."
McGrady said, "The fourth quarter was the Lamar Odom Show. He
was doing eveyrthing. He was making things happen."
Odom scored the Lakers' first seven points of the quarter, found
Atkins for a 3-pointer and blew past Yao for a layup that brought
Los Angeles within 98-96. The sellout crowd of 18,201 -- Houston's
largest of the season -- fell silent and the Rockets quickly called
The Lakers eventually went ahead 100-99 on Atkins' 3 with 1:54
left. Odom swatted away Juwan Howard's layup on the next possession
and Atkins made two free throws to give Los Angeles a three-point
Houston took over from there.
Sura hit two free throws to pull Houston within a point and Odom
missed a jumper to set up the final sequence.
The Rockets got the ball down low to Yao, who muscled his way
between a couple of defenders and was fouled. He calmly made the
go-ahead free throws.
"We did everything in the last three quarters you would usually
do to lose," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We got a good
cushion and then they dominated the game in the second half.
"You know I'm just being honest ... It's a great win."
The Lakers dropped to 5-6 without Bryant. Hamblen said Bryant
should play at some point during this five-game road trip.
Midway through the second quarter, Yao and Atkins
faced off in a seemingly lopsided matchup for a jump ball -- Yao is
7-foot-6, Atkins 5-11; a height difference of 19 inches. Yao
controlled the tap, but the Rockets couldn't handle it and Caron
Butler streaked down the court for a breakaway dunk. "I knew
wasn't going to win the jump. The guy is eight-foot tall," said
Atkins, exaggerating Yao's height by six inches. ... Houston tied a
season high with 14 steals. ... The Lakers scored 63 second-half
points against the Rockets, the most they've allowed this season.