Yao Ming, who briefly left with a knee injury in the closing minutes, had 28 points and 10 rebounds, to lead the Houston Rockets to a physical 100-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Ron Artest added 21 points and Aaron Brooks had 19 for the Rockets.
Kobe Bryant, who finished a distant second to LeBron James in NBA MVP voting announced earlier on Monday, scored 32 points, doing his best to keep the Lakers in the game despite missing practice on Sunday with a sore throat.
Houston forward Shane Battier needed four stitches to close a gash over his left eye late in the first quarter.
Magig 95, Celtics 90
At Boston, Dwight Howard returned from his one-game suspension to get 16 points and 22 rebounds as Orlando held off the late-charging Boston in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Magic opened a 28-point lead early in the second half before Boston cut the deficit to 91-87 in the final 2 minutes. The Celtics had several chances to come within one possession - the best Ray Allen's 3-pointer that rimmed out with 43 seconds left.
Paul Pierce made a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left to make it a three-point game, but J.J. Redick went 4-for-4 from the line in the last 14 seconds to ice it.
Pierce scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half and Rajon Rondo had 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Game 2 is tomorrow night in Boston.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily May 5, 2009)