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Yao Scores 38 to Lift Rockets
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Chinese star Yao Ming scored 38 points, 23 of them in the fourth quarter after Tracy McGrady departed with back spasms, to lead the Houston Rockets past Washington 114-109 on Saturday.

The 2.23-metre centre took command of the National Basketball Association game by scoring Houston's first 12 points of the final period after McGrady, who expects to return Tuesday, was sent to the locker room.

"I had to do more work to put the team in a good position," Yao said. "Tracy McGrady is the best player on our team. Somebody had to step up."

Yao's season-high point total was only three points off his NBA career high. He scored eight points during a 3:04 stretch of the fourth quarter played in diminished brightness due to a lighting malfunction.

The bulbs began shining, but Yao turned the lights out on the Wizards, spoiling a 41-point performance by Gilbert Arenas.

"He obviously delivered," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said of Yao. "He can have bad nights, but consistently he is going to score."

Yao also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and swatted aside six shots in nearly 40 minutes, sparking another solid performance by the NBA's toughest defensive unit.

"Yao took over in the fourth quarter. That's what the big fellow can do," said McGrady, who did not expect a long-term injury absence.

"I feel pretty good. I'm confident I'll be back on the court Tuesday. I'm not worried about it.

The Rockets won for the eighth time in 10 games and improved to 14-6, their best start since 1996 and trailing only Utah and San Antonio among NBA rivals. The Wizards slid to 9-11.

(China Daily December 12, 2006)

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