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Yao, Wafer lead Rockets past Magic 93-83

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[April 08, 2009]  HOUSTON (AP) -- Yao Ming scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, outplaying Dwight Howard and leading the Houston Rockets to a 93-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

Ron Artest had 16 points and matched a season high with seven assists, and reserve Von Wafer scored 14 points for the Rockets, who stayed a half-game behind San Antonio in the race for the Southwest Division.

Howard had 13 points and 10 rebounds, but went 3-for-9 from the free-throw line for the Magic, who slipped one game behind second-place Boston in the Eastern Conference standings.

Rafer Alston 15 points and three assists in his first game in Houston since he was traded to Orlando on Feb. 19 in a deal that brought Kyle Lowry to the Rockets. The Magic are 18-6 with Alston as their point guard.

Yao hit two hook shots and another from the baseline over Howard in the first six minutes, while Howard missed his first two shots and coughed up a turnover. The Magic started 4-for-12 from the field, but three of the baskets were 3-pointers and they trailed only 12-11.

Yao then blocked Howard's shot and dunked at the other end, part of a quick 7-0 Houston spurt.

Carl Landry started the second quarter for Houston, his first action since he was shot in the left calf in a late-night altercation on a city street. Wearing an elastic sleeve on his calf, Landry swished his first shot, a jumper from the free-throw line.

With Howard resting on Orlando's bench, Yao and the Rockets stretched the lead to 40-30 in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. Howard returned with 5:19 left in the half, but Artest sank a 3-pointer to give Houston a 13-point lead, its biggest of the game.

Houston outrebounded Orlando 23-20 and held Howard to eight points in the first half to lead 47-38.

The Rockets committed three turnovers in the first three minutes after halftime and the Magic cut the lead to 50-47. Howard did a better job defending Yao in the third quarter and Houston went 8-for-22 from the field (36 percent) with four turnovers.

But the Rockets still headed to the fourth leading 67-59 -- the Magic failed to gain much ground in the third quarter by missing 12 of 19 shots.

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The Rockets led 71-65 when Wafer drove past J.J. Redick for a reverse layup with 7:51 left in the game. Yao came out for a quick rest and Dikembe Mutombo replaced him, immediately forcing another miss by Howard. Artest scored to extend the Houston lead to 76-65.

Yao returned with 3:50 left and promptly hit a long jumper for an 84-74 Houston lead. The Magic couldn't muster much of a rally and lost to Houston for the 12th time in the last 14 meetings.

Notes: Yao has six straight double-doubles. ... Howard has 60 double-doubles this season. ... The Rockets improved to 32-8 at home, their highest win total in six seasons at the Toyota Center. ... Landry scored eight points in 20 minutes. Coach Rick Adelman said before the game that Landry seems to have mentally recovered from the shooting. "I think you can tell with the way he's on the floor, how he's feeling," Adelman said. "We've all been trying to tell him he had to push it, and keep pushing it, because physically, it seemed like everything was fine." ... Texas Tech coach Mike Leach visited the Rockets' locker room before the game and watched the game from a luxury suite


[Associated Press; By CHRIS DUNCAN]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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