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Yao's 27 leads Houston to fifth win in six games

HOUSTON (AP) -- Three nights after ripping his team for a bad
loss, Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy had plenty of nice things to say
about the Rockets' 102-88 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

"I don't want to get painted as a negative quote. I want to be
positive," Van Gundy said, allowing a smile. "I'm a [glass]
half-full type of guy."

Yao Ming scored 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and Rafer Alston
had a season-high 13 assists as the Rockets won for the fifth time
in six games.

The loss in that stretch -- 89-78 to the Los Angeles Lakers on
Wednesday -- had Van Gundy steaming. He labeled the performance
"passionless" and said it turned his stomach.

He was in a much better mood after the Rockets shot 49 percent
(40-of-81) with the help of 27 assists. The shooting percentage was
Houston's best in more than a month.

"Because of how uninspired we were against the Lakers, it's
easy to forget we won four in a row," Van Gundy said. "Winning
tonight, we did some real good things."

Tracy McGrady added 25 points to shake out of a slump and David
Wesley scored 17.

McGrady had hit only 19 of 63 shots in Houston's last three
games and scored only points 11 in Wednesday's loss. He went
9-for-22 against the Jazz -- not great, but an improvement.

"I'm still not out of it," said McGrady, who went 2-for-5 from
3-point range. "Regardless of how we played, I've got a lot going
inside my head."

Milt Palacio scored 20 points and had six assists for the Jazz,
who had won four of their last five.

But Utah played in Minnesota on Friday and looked sluggish in
Houston.

"We didn't show a great deal of toughness," Utah coach Jerry
Sloan said. "We were tired out there and we have to get into
better shape."

The Jazz missed 15 of their first 22 shots and Houston's lead
bulged to double digits. Alston, who had six assists in the opening
quarter, hit a wide-open 3-pointer to put the Rockets up 34-21 with
7:59 left in the first half.

A minute later, Alston passed to Keith Bogans for a fast-break
layup, Bogans' first basket since Houston acquired him from
Charlotte for Lonny Baxter on Thursday. Bogans added a follow shot
later in the second quarter.

While Utah stayed cold, the Rockets clicked on offense for a
change, with crisp passes setting up close-range baskets.
Consecutive dunks by Yao put the Rockets up 44-27 with 2:51 left
before halftime.

"We were doing a lot better on offense," Yao said. "We were
able to get quick strikes and a lot of layups. The Laker game for
us was nothing good. This game hopefully will recharge us and get
us back to the way we were playing before."

The Jazz found their touch late in the half, hitting four of
their last five shots. The Rockets coughed up two turnovers in the
first 90 seconds of the third quarter, and the Jazz finished a 13-2
run on Devin Brown's 3-pointer from the corner.

But with 7-foot-2 Greg Ostertag benched in the third quarter
with three fouls, Utah had no one to match up with the 7-6 Yao, who
dunked and converted a three-point play to restore Houston's
comfortable lead.

"We kind of fought back a little in the second half," Sloan
said. "We got to within six or seven points and then they just
annihilated us. Our big guys just looked like they were running in
mud."

Yao hit his right elbow on the floor late in the third quarter
and went to the bench, but the Rockets still pulled away.
Consecutive 3-pointers from Wesley sent the lead past 20.

The Jazz opened the fourth quarter with a 13-4 run, but Alston
found Chuck Hayes for a layup to put the Rockets up 86-71 and Utah
never threatened again.

"You want to play up-tempo," Alston said. "You always want to
come out aggressive and set a pace for your team to play. We were
making them have to defend and we were making them run up and down
the court."

Game Notes
A uniform hung in Rockets G Derek Anderson's locker the day
after Van Gundy said the team was trying to trade him. Anderson has
missed 29 games with a strained right calf and Van Gundy said the
addition of Bogans made Anderson expendable. "Because I knew we
were trading for Keith, I thought it was the right time to get
together and evaluate where we were going," Van Gundy said. "We
came to the conclusion that it would be best if we try to find
another team for (Anderson)." ... Rockets F Stromile Swift was
benched for arriving late to practice on Thursday. Van Gundy said
Swift would play on Sunday against New York. ... The Rockets'
12-point halftime lead was their largest since Jan. 5, when they
led Cleveland by 14.