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Yao fires Rockets past Trail Blazers in Houston

YAO Ming scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to power the Houston Rockets to a 102-88 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in a battle for fourth place in the Western Conference on Sunday.

The victory inched the Rockets (49-28) a half-game ahead of the Trail Blazers (48-28) in the West and snapped Portland's four-game win streak. The Rockets, 31-8 at home this season, also closed within a half-game of third-placed San Antonio (49-27).

"We did a good job today of battling under the basket. We really contained them on the defensive end," Yao told reporters after the Rockets collected 30 of their 42 rebounds on defense.

"It was a terrific win for us," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "The guys came out the way we needed to and it was good because we finished it"

Both Houston and Portland are assured playoff spots. Despite the defeat, the Trail Blazers claimed their berth on Sunday when the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Phoenix Suns 140-116.

Elsewhere in the National Basketball Association, it was: Cavaliers 101, Spurs 81; Knicks 112, Raptors 103; Pistons 104, Bobcats 97; Jazz 108, Hornets 94; Nuggets 110, Timberwolves 87; Pacers 117, Thunder 99; Nets 96, 76ers 67; Warriors 105, Kings 100; and Lakers 88, Clippers 85.

In Houston, Rockets had four other players in double figures, Luis Scola collected 16 points, Ron Artest had 15, Aaron Brooks contributed 14 and reserve Von Wafer finished with 12.

"There was a lot on the court today, not just the fourth spot which we have now, but also the tie breaker," Scola said.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy both had 22 points for Portland.

Houston rushed to a 54-43 halftime lead but Portland cut the lead to five points at 65-60 in the third before the Rockets went on a 7-0 run.

Portland rallied to within four early in the fourth before another surge by the Rockets, this time for six consecutive points, put them comfortably ahead.

"You have to be physical and we didn't establish that from the start," Portland coach Nate McMillan said.

The Trail Blazers made the postseason for the first time in six years.

"I congratulated the guys for getting there but our work is still not done," he said. "We've a chance for home court and we have to keep working for it."


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