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Yao Ming leads Rockets past Hawks

POSTED: December 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.
PAT SULLIVAN/The Associated Press

Houston Rockets' Luis Scola, center, goes to the hoop between Atlanta Hawks defenders Zaza Pachulia, left, and Maurice Evans during the first half on Tuesday in Houston.

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HOUSTON Yao Ming scored 24 points and grabbed a season-high 19 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Atlanta Hawks 92-84 on Tuesday night.

Luis Scola added 12 points and 10 rebounds, Ron Artest scored 19 and the Rockets outrebounded Atlanta 57-40 to hand the Hawks their 10th consecutive loss in Houston.

Joe Johnson scored 22 points and Josh Smith added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks.

The Hawks built an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Yao scored twice and Carl Landry followed a miss by Artest to cut the Rockets’ deficit to two.

Artest swished a 3-pointer from the corner with 5:11 left to put Houston in front, but Al Horford answered with a turnaround. Yao then muscled in for a layup, Rafer Alston sank two free throws and Artest scored on a drive to push the Rockets’ lead to 83-78 near the three-minute mark.

Yao rebounded a miss by Zaza Pachulia and Alston hit his second 3-pointer at the other end, and Houston held off the Hawks from there.

Alston had six assists and scored 12 for Houston, but went 4-for-15 from the field.

Mike Bibby added 15 points for Atlanta.

The Rockets opened the game with a 13-0 run as the Hawks missed their first 10 shots. Smith scored on a putback with 6:52 left in the first quarter for Atlanta’s first points.

The Hawks missed 22 of their first 26 shots and trailed 31-16 three minutes into the second quarter. After a timeout, Flip Murray swatted away a shot by Landry and found Smith for a dunk to launch Atlanta’s rally.

The Rockets were suddenly stagnant and turnover-prone on offense, and Bibby’s 3-pointer finished a 14-4 run that cut Houston’s lead to 37-32.

Artest sank the Rockets’ first 3-pointer of the second quarter with 24 seconds left, boosting the lead to 46-36. Bibby drove for a layup just before the halftime buzzer, the last of his nine first-half points.

Houston had up four turnovers in the first two minutes of the second half and Horford’s short baseline jumper trimmed the Hawks’ deficit to 49-47. Marvin Williams’ 3-pointer from the corner on Atlanta’s next possession gave the Hawks their first lead.

The Rockets went 4-for-21 from the field and committed five turnovers in the third quarter to trail 62-60. Yao kept Houston close by continuing to dominate the boards — he had 17 rebounds after three quarters, topping his previous season high by two.

Johnson scored five points in the first 90 seconds of the final quarter to stretch Atlanta’s lead to six.



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