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Yao sizzles as Rockets ease past Grizzlies

YAO Ming scored 24 points and pulled down 17 rebounds to spark the home-loving Houston Rockets to a 93-83 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

"Our defense was a lot better today and when you play at home, you always feel stronger," Yao told reporters after Houston recorded a 12th consecutive victory at Toyota Center.

"The crowd gives you a lot of energy and that helps with your success."

Yao also had three of nine blocks for the Rockets (41-23), the Western Conference's third-ranked team.

"We just wanted to send a message both to our opponent and also to ourselves that we need to play strong," Yao added after his 30th double-double of the season.

"We cannot play like we played the last two times against them in their house," Yao said of the Rockets, who lost in Memphis on December 8 and February 4. "We wanted to set a tone for the game."

Elsewhere in the National Basketball Association, it was: Jazz 109, Raptors 101; Magic 86, Celtics 79; Spurs 103, Suns 98; Nets 106, Knicks 101; Thunder 89, 76ers 74; and Kings 114, Nuggets 106.

In Houston, the giant Chinese center had 11 points in the first quarter when Houston opened up a 28-19 lead. The margin stretched to 18 late in the second and the Rockets were on cruise control for the remainder of the game.

Luis Scola added 18 points and 14 rebounds for Houston, who got an easy victory heading into a tough week that includes games against Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio.

"Yao and Luis really controlled the boards for us," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said, adding the previous defeat to Memphis had spurred his team on.

"We talked about that a lot and we knew we needed to be focused," he added. "That's one of the things that we really took care of tonight."

Rudy Gay scored 21 points for an out-of-sorts Memphis (16-46), which has won only once in 11 games. Marc Gasol added 18 and O.J. Mayo, the Grizzlies' leading scorer, had only 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

"You have to give them a lot of respect because they force you out of your rhythm," Gay said. "Yao makes it real tough inside."

In Toronto, Deron Williams had 25 points and nine assists to lead the Utah Jazz past the Raptors for their 11th straight win.

Mehmet Okur had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Kyle Korver matched a season-high with 20 points. Paul Millsap had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Andrei Kirilenko scored 18 for the Jazz, who have won eight straight games against Toronto.

Utah matched its longest win streak since an 11-game run from April 1-18, 1999.

Chris Bosh had 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, with Andrea Bargnani scoring 20 and Jose Calderon adding 10 points and 11 assists. Anthony Parker scored 16 points, but Toronto still lost its fifth straight.


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