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Yao and the Rockets sink slumping Celtics

VON Wafer hit a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left to give Houston the lead as the Rockets beat the slumping Boston Celtics 89-85 in the NBA yesterday.

It was the sixth loss in eight games for the defending NBA champions, but their first at home since a November 14 defeat to Denver sent them on a 19-game winning streak.

Yao Ming had 26 points and eight rebounds, scoring on a putback with 12.9 seconds left to help the Rockets snap a three-game losing streak and a five-game road skid.

Paul Pierce scored 26 points, and Kevin Garnett had 18 and eight rebounds for Boston.

Cavaliers 111, Bobcats 81

At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 21 points before grabbing an early seat on the bench as Cleveland warmed up for its highly anticipated matchup with Boston.

Mo Williams added 15 points to help the Cavaliers improve to 18-0 at home.

On Friday, the Celtics will arrive for a game between the Eastern Conference's premier powers, a rematch of last season's heated seven-game conference semifinal and a possible tease of what could come this spring.

Boston holds a 1-0 edge this season after beating Cleveland 90-85 at home in its opener, when the Celtics raised their 17th title banner.

Raymond Felton led Charlotte with 15 points.

Raptors 99, Wizards 93

At Washington, Andrea Bargnani scored 25 points, and Chris Bosh added 18 for Toronto, down to nine players after trading Hassan Adams to the Los Angeles Clippers in a money-saving move.

Bargnani went 4-for-5 on 3s, and 4-for-4 on other field-goal attempts. Bosh scored half his points in the fourth quarter and had eight rebounds and six assists.

Antawn Jamison scored a season-high 32 points for Washington.

Magic 106, Hawks 102

At Atlanta, Dwight Howard had 23 points and 19 rebounds for Orlando in a matchup of the top two teams in the Southeast Division.

Orlando nearly squandered a 21-point advantage, catching a huge break when Mike Bibby missed a breakaway layup that should have pulled Atlanta within two points with just under 1? minutes remaining. Josh Smith led Atlanta with 21 points.

Nets 100, Grizzlies 89

At East Rutherford, New Jersey, Vince Carter had 25 points and a season-high 12 assists, and New Jersey won its third straight at home.

Despite playing without leading scorer Devin Harris (sore right hamstring), the Nets raced to an early double-digit lead, kept it for most of the way, and never trailed in a game for the first time this season.

Yi Jianlian added 20 points for the Nets. Memphis rookie O.J. Mayo scored 26 points, and Rudy Gay had 23.


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