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Rockets, Magic pull off upsets

THE Houston Rockets stunned the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers 100-92 on Monday to get their Western Conference semifinal series off to a surprising start.

Yao Ming scored 28 points and had 10 rebounds to help the fifth-seeded Rockets notch a rare win at Staples Center.

The Eastern Conference semifinals also began with an upset, as the underdogs Orlando Magic weathered a storming comeback from the Boston Celtics to defeat the defending NBA champions 95-90.

In Los Angeles, Houston survived a 32-point effort by Kobe Bryant to defeat the Lakers for the first time this season to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"We are not going to run with these guys, they are so good offensively that we had to muck it up," Houston's Shane Battier told reporters. "And we did a great job just controlling the tempo."

Yao briefly left the game in the fourth quarter after hurting his right knee but returned.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson found much to dislike about his team's performance. "I don't know if we can play much worse, to be honest with you," he said.

The Rockets grabbed an early advantage before fending off the Lakers for the remainder of the contest.

Los Angeles lost just five home games during the regular season and looked set to record another win when it took a 77-76 lead with eight minutes to play, but the Rockets responded with nine consecutive points to secure the victory. Ron Artest contributed 21 points and Aaron Brooks had 19 for the Rockets, who had lost all four regular-season games to the Lakers.

Pau Gasol followed Bryant with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

In Boston, Dwight Howard grabbed 22 points and 16 rebounds to help Orlando build a 28-point, second-half lead but Boston launched a sensational comeback to close the gap to three points on Paul Pierce's three-pointer with less than seven seconds left.

However, the Magic closed out the win with two free throws from J.J. Redick.

"We let the lead slip...but there's plenty of positives," Redick, who had 12 points, said. "We got a big win to start the series and that's what matters."

Rashard Lewis chipped in with 18 points for Orlando, Mickael Pietrus adding 17, and Hedo Turkoglu 15.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was happy to get the victory, but did not like the way his team ended the game. "We were sort of trying to run out the clock," Van Gundy said. "You can't do that in games like this."

The Celtics got 23 points from Pierce. Rajan Rondo chalked up 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and Glen Davis had 12 points.

The Celtics shot less than 39 percent and turned the ball over 14 times.

"We played flat, we played with no energy in the first half, but it was not a fatigue factor," said Boston coach Doc Rivers, whose team was taken to a Game 7 by Chicago in the first round.


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