Yao Ming scored 11 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, Luis Scola earned his seventh double-double of the season and the Houston Rockets beat the Sacramento Kings 107-96 on Friday night.
Scola matched a season high with 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Tracy McGrady scored 18 and Carl Landry added 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who've won six straight at home.
John Salmons scored 26 and Brad Miller added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings. Sacramento has lost four of its last six and dropped to 1-2 since Kenny Natt replaced fired coach Reggie Theus on Monday.
The Rockets led 84-76 early in the fourth quarter, when Ron Artest scooped a one-handed pass to Scola for a layup. Scola was fouled on the play and walked to the free-throw line as Artest smiled and pointed to the crowd.
Former Rockets player Bobby Jackson sank a 3-pointer with 3:14 left to trim Sacramento's deficit to 98-92. But he missed a drive on the Kings' next possession, and Yao sank two free throws with 2:18 remaining.
Houston played without point guard Rafer Alston (strained left hamstring) and got a brief injury scare from McGrady early in the game. He had averaged 21 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists in three games since sitting out the previous seven to rest his sore left knee, but knocked knees with Spencer Hawes on a drive near the 8-minute mark.
McGrady stumbled into the crowd and winced as he came limping back onto the court. He shook off it off, though, sinking two free throws and scoring on two drives over the next two minutes.
The Kings led 48-38 with 7:26 left in the half, but Sacramento finally started missing shots and the Rockets finished the half with a 15-4 spurt to forge a 55-all tie at the break.
The Kings coughed up three turnovers early in the third quarter and the Rockets built a six-point cushion. Brad Miller converted two three-point plays to tie it again at 69.
The Rockets outscored Sacramento 13-4 over the final five minutes of the quarter to push the lead to 82-73, their biggest of the game to that point.
In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Deron Williams poured in 29 points as the Utah Jazz continued their mystifying mastery over the Detroit Pistons with 120-114 double-overtime win.
It was Utah's seventh successive victory over the Pistons, extending a run stretching back almost three years. Detroit have since recorded 190 wins, but not a single one against the Jazz.
Williams, a member of the U.S. gold medal winning team at the Beijing Olympics, added eight assists to the Jazz cause, while Mehmet Okur also had a double-double, dropping 26 points and grabbing 12 boards against his former team.
In Denver, the showdown between U.S. Olympic teammates LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony quickly turned into more of a smackdown as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Denver Nuggets 105-88.
In sweeping the Nuggets for the first time in his career, James had 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in leading a Cavaliers offense that seemingly couldn't miss. James was 13-of-20 from the floor.
In Boston, the home team moved within one win of a franchise-record winning streak, beating Chicago 126-108 to make it 17 victories in a row.
Ray Allen scored 27 points and Kendrick Perkins scored a career-high 25 on 12-for-15 shooting for the Celtics, who will go for a record-equalling 18th win when they face New York on Sunday.
The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won an NBA-record 33 in a row.
Boston's 126-point total was its highest this season.
Elsewhere, it was: Heat 89, Lakers 87; Nets 121, Mavericks 97; Bucks 105, Knicks 81; Hawks 115, Warriors 99; Bobcats 112, Grizzlies 83; Clippers 117, Pacers 109, 2OT; 76ers 109, Wizards 103; and Thunder 91, Raptors 83.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily December 22, 2008)