<
>

Yao, Rockets lower boom on SuperSonics

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets put together one of their
best performances of the season, too late to matter for a team out
of playoff contention.

Yao Ming had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and the Rockets routed
the Seattle SuperSonics 115-87 on Wednesday night.

Stromile Swift and newly acquired Richie Frahm had 16 points
apiece for the Rockets, who shot 52 percent (42-of-81) and
outrebounded Seattle 46-32 to snap a five-game home losing streak.
Frahm, a second-year guard, was claimed off waivers on March 20 and
went 4-for-8 from 3-point range.

Yao also matched a career high with three steals.

"We were really guarding people," said Yao, who also blocked a
shot. "Our individual defense and our team defense were the
difference. We did that well from the start of the game."

The Rockets coupled their smothering defense with good shooting
and started the blowout immediately. They scored the first nine
points, led 18-4 and built a 29-10 lead by the end of the first
quarter.

"I think this inspires us to go out there and finish up strong
and really not give it up," Swift said.

The Sonics, meanwhile, looked exhausted the night after a 98-97
win in Memphis. They missed 18 of their first 21 shots, and their
10 points in the first quarter was a low for any period this
season. It was also a low for a Houston opponent in a first quarter
this season.

"Last night was as good a win as we've had," said Seattle
coach Bob Hill, "but tonight we just weren't there."

Leading scorer Ray Allen missed his first nine shots and was
1-for-12 at halftime. He finished 1-for-13 and had 10 points.

"They jumped out on us and we really didn't adjust to
anything," Allen said. "Offensively, we didn't have anything
going and that seemed to feed them offensively."

Earl Watson scored 20 to lead Seattle, which had won six of its
previous 10. But the Sonics were never in this one and before it
was over, Hill told his team to treat it like a practice.

"We decided, there at the end, to just use it to work on some
things," Hill said. "So we got some good out of it."

The Rockets led 64-32 at the break, their highest-scoring first
half of the season. The Sonics matched a season low in a first half
after going 9-for-40.

Houston was even getting the bounces, a rarity in its
disappointing season. Early in the second quarter, Swift threw up a
hook shot from the baseline that caromed off the top of the
backboard and plopped straight down into the basket.

"It was one of those nights," Swift said after the game with a
sheepish grin.

The Rockets shot 63 percent in the opening half (24-of-38). They
also had balance -- Yao had only 12 at halftime and five of his
teammates had at least eight points.

Seattle nearly doubled its field goals in the third quarter,
going 8-for-18 and scoring 30 points. Yao kept the Rockets in
command, scoring 17 points in the quarter. He sat out the fourth
quarter as Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy let mostly reserves play.

"We may not have as much firepower as some teams," Van Gundy
said, "but our team, for the most part, comes ready to play, ready
to practice."

The Rockets had 100 points with nearly 9 minutes remaining and
finished with their highest point total at the Toyota Center all
season.

"You always envision a night like that, where you come out and
hit on all cylinders," said Houston guard Rafer Alston, who had 10
points and eight assists.

Despite the second-half improvement, Seattle shot 24-of-71 (34
percent), its third-worst percentage of the season.

"We were just blown out," Watson said. "They controlled the
game from the start and all the way through."

Game notes
Houston has won six in a row against Seattle. ... Referee
Tim Donaghy called a foul on Johan Petro on the opening tip -- 1
second into the game -- for bumping Yao on the jump. ...The Rockets
never trailed in a game for the first time since a 116-98 win over
Denver on Jan. 9, 2005. ... Yao had five assists, tying a season
high. ...The Sonics played without second-leading scorer Rashard
Lewis, who sprained his ankle in Tuesday's game. Hill said Lewis
was "day-to-day" and was questionable for Friday's game against
the Los Angeles Lakers.