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Rockets on fire, drag Lakers all the way

THE under-strength Houston Rockets upset the Los Angeles Lakers 95-80 on Thursday to force a deciding game in the best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series.

Guard Aaron Brooks scored 26 points and Luis Scola added 24 and 12 rebounds as the Rockets led from start to finish in an impressive home win against the top-seeded Lakers.

"We still have no chance, we'll keep playing though," Brooks told reporters in reference to his team's underdog status. "They're a great team, but we sustained and pushed it out in the fourth quarter."

Kobe Bryant had a game-high 32 points on 11-for-27 shooting for the Lakers, who had won the previous game 118-78 and were seeking to close out the series.

The Rockets, without injured All-Star Yao Ming, raced out to a 21-3 advantage in the first quarter, and held off a run in the third where the Lakers pulled within two before Houston established a 74-65 edge going into the final quarter.

The fifth-seeded Rockets have rallied in this series despite playing without Yao, Dikembe Mutombo and Tracy McGrady.

Game 7 is tomorrow in Los Angeles.

In the Eastern Conference, Dwight Howard scored 23 points and pulled down 22 rebounds as the Orlando Magic forced a Game 7 with an 83-75 victory over the visiting Boston Celtics.

Howard, who criticized his coach for his lack of scoring chances in Game 5, combined with teammate Rashard Lewis's 20 points to tie the best-of-seven series at 3-3.

"I got myself open and ran the floor. That's what I have to do, I can't worry about touches," Howard said. "I got offensive boards and was active, and that's what I have to do if we're going to win. We're going to Boston to get Game 7 (on Sunday)."

Rajon Rondo recorded 19 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists for Boston, which led for most of the game before the Magic outscored the NBA champions 22-13 in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce, who notched 17 points, scored six straight to give the Celtics a 73-72 edge with 4:50 left in the game but Hedo Turkoglu drilled a 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining as part of an 8-0 run to close out the game for Orlando.


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