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Rockets' victory keeps Wizards winless on the road

HOUSTON (AP) -- Luther Head followed his coach's curious order to
help the Houston Rockets survive another fourth-quarter meltdown.

Head made a free throw with 3 seconds left, then rebounded his
intentional miss, got fouled and made two more to finally put away
Houston's 86-82 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

Head said coach Jeff Van Gundy told him to miss on purpose,
leaving the Wizards with almost no time to go down the floor for a
tying basket. Head's rebound made Van Gundy's call look even
smarter.

"It was actually a good play," Head said. "You never go into
a gym and practice missing free throws. But it came off and I got
it."

Yao Ming had 25 points and 14 rebounds and Tracy McGrady added
13 points and 12 boards as the Rockets overcame 22 turnovers to
drop Washington to 0-6 on the road this season.

The Rockets were outscored in the fourth quarter for the seventh
time in 12 games, a disturbing pattern that's nearly cost them in
two other home games.

"It would concern me if we were losing games," McGrady said.
"I will take a win any way I can get it."

Gilbert Arenas scored 26 and Caron Butler added 14 for the
Wizards, who were doomed by poor shooting. Arenas, the league's
fourth-leading scorer, went 8-for-26 from the field and Washington
finished 28-for-84 (33 percent). The Rockets also had a 57-44 edge
in rebounding.

"I like the way my team played," Washington coach Eddie Jordan
said. "We just can't make shots right now."

Still, the Wizards looked like they might rally to win after
Arenas' 3-pointer with 5:43 left finished a 13-2 run that trimmed
Houston's lead to 72-71.

The Rockets missed 11 of their first 14 shots of the fourth. The
Wizards had seven chances to take the lead, but each possession
ended with a turnover or another missed shot.

"For the most part, I saw us organized," Jordan said. "We
just couldn't knock it down. It was a test of wills."

Arenas fouled Head on a 3-pointer with 2:33 left and Head sank
all three free throws to put the Rockets up 75-71.

Arenas missed a bank shot at the other end before Head sank a
3-pointer from the corner to end Houston's 5½-minute field-goal
drought.

Butler and Arenas went 8-for-10 from the free throw line over
the next minute and Washington trailed only 80-79 with 29 seconds
left.

McGrady drew in the defense on a drive, then found Alston for a
3-pointer with 6 seconds left. But Arenas banked in a 3 with 3.8
seconds remaining to keep the Wizards within one.

Antonio Daniels immediately fouled Head on the inbound pass to
set up the finish.

The Rockets have won five games by seven points or fewer and Van
Gundy is worried how often they're getting away with sloppy play.

"Whenever you turn the ball over 22 times, you're never going
to look good on offense," he said. "Right now, we're winning
despite our turnovers. History tells you, that will not continue."

The Rockets seemed ready to blow the game open in the first
half.

Houston reserve Vassilis Spanoulis sank a 3-pointer and scored
on a driving one-hander in the final minute of an ugly first
quarter to give the Rockets a 23-15 lead.

Washington missed 17 of 23 shots and was outrebounded 17-10 in
the opening quarter.

Yao started 1-for-5, then hit two turnaround jumpers in the last
90 seconds of the first half to carry the Rockets to a 40-28 lead
at the break.

The Wizards finished the half a dismal 11-of-44 from the field
(25 percent) and their 28 first-half points were a season low.

"We're one of the best offensive teams in this league," said
Daniels, who scored 11. "For us to have 28 points in the first
half, that's just not us."

Washington hit five of its first eight shots of the second half
to get within five. But Yao had found his range by then, too, and
sank a pair of turnarounds to extend the lead to 51-40.

Yao had eight points in the third quarter and flipped in a hook
shot early in the fourth to give Houston a 68-56 lead.

But the Rockets went cold and Butler's emphatic dunk over Yao
with 9:03 left foreshadowed the rally to come.

But it fell short and Washington lost its fifth straight game to
the Rockets in Houston.

Game notes
Rockets F Chuck Hayes started for the first time since
bruising his left knee in a collision with Shaquille O'Neal on Nov.
12. Hayes had six points and three rebounds. ... The Rockets' 86
points were a season low for a Washington opponent. ... The Wizards
have lost 18 of their last 21 games to the Rockets in Houston.