Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming got the Los Angeles Clippers back to familiar territory.
McGrady scored 21 points, Yao added 20 and 11 rebounds, and both players blocked three shots to lift the Houston Rockets to a 96-79 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers, who fell below the .500 mark for the first time this season.
After starting the season a promising 11-7, the Clippers have been beset by injuries to the likes of Kerry Kittles and Shaun Livingston and have lost six of their last seven games.
"It's one of those things," Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said. "You know what you have to do as a team, and you have to go out and do it. It's a silver lining for guys to come off the bench and to step up and help our team. Injuries are part of the game."
"We are missing players, but that just means the other guys have to step up their game," Clippers forward Elton Brand said. "We have to get improved scoring from the other guys on this team."
The Rockets defeated the Clippers for the eighth consecutive time by seizing a lead they never relinquished early in the first quarter when they went on a 12-0 run, led by Yao who scored 11 in the first quarter.
"We dictated the rhythm all night and cut down on our turnovers," said Yao, who posted his third straight double-double. "Our defense was very good, too. We limited their scorers' ability."
The Clippers rallied in the third, cutting the lead to 52-49 with 7:50 remaining on a jumper by Corey Maggette, but Jim Jackson nailed back-to-back 3-pointers en route to a season-high 21 for Houston.
"I think we played at a good energy level," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I thought Yao got us off to a good start, and I thought guys did a good job finding him. Everyone did their part. Jim made a lot of threes and we defended well."
McGrady said Wednesday's disappointing loss to the Bobcats had little effect on the Rockets' play against Los Angeles.
"I don't think the last game had anything to do with it," McGrady said. "I think everybody kind of cleared their heads just a little bit. I think some teams probably have a tendency of coming out flat that first game after the holidays. Our intensity was high and our focus was there."
Maggette scored 23 points for Los Angeles, but both he and Brand, who mustered just 11, did not play in the fourth quarter.
Maggette, who wasn't bothered by sitting out the fourth quarter, said the Clippers simply ran into a better team.
"This is a tough team, and they should have a better record," he said. "They are searching for their chemistry, and when they get it, they will be a tough team to beat."
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
ockets Keep Clippers at Bay
Posted by SloMo at 4:25 PM