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Yao-led Rockets bury Trail Blazers

COMING out strong against the Trail Blazers was the first step of a very logical progression for Yao Ming.

"Because this was the first game, and also the first couple of minutes of the first game - the first couple of minutes can set the tone for the game, and the first game can set the tone for the series," Yao said.

Yao scored nine of Houston's first 11 points and finished with 24 in the Rockets' 108-81 victory over the Trail Blazers on Saturday night. It was the opener of their first-round playoff series.

The Rockets led by as many as 31 points in the second half and there was simply no way the young Blazers could catch up.

Yao scored all of his points in the first half, and added nine rebounds. He hit all nine of his attempts from the field and all six of his free throws.

Portland centers Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden had no answer for the seven-time All-Star from China.

"We tried to play behind him," Przybilla said. "So we'll make adjustments for the next game. He hit every shot he took so we got to do something."

Yao did not attempt a shot in the second half and sat for all of the fourth quarter.

"That's the beauty of Yao - he's incredibly efficient," teammate Shane Battier said. "Not many guys in the league are capable of having this kind of night, where he makes every shot he puts up."

Aaron Brooks added 27 points for the Rockets, who haven't advanced out of the first round of the playoffs since 1997.

Brandon Roy had 21 points for the Blazers in their first playoff appearance since the 2002-03 season. Portland embraced the young team this season, and some 10,000 fans showed up at a downtown rally earlier in the week in support of the team.

Yao went on to score 14 points by the midway point of the first quarter, giving the Rockets an 18-12 lead. He finished the quarter 7-for-7 from the floor for 16 points.

"He just got going," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "He was on a roll. He was making turnaround jumpers, jump hooks, face-up jumpers. He did everything."

Houston collectively shot 75 percent in the first quarter, missing only five of 20 shots.

The Rockets extended their lead to 40-26 on Von Wafer's jumper in the second quarter, before going up 58-41 on Ron Artest's layup.

There was a scary moment on the other end when Roy got caught in a tangle of players scrambling for the ball on the floor. Roy sat on the court for several moments, and when his teammates came to his aid, he appeared to mouth "my back." But he returned shortly thereafter.

The Rockets led 62-44 at the half. Artest and Brooks each had 13 points in addition to Yao's 24.

Luis Scola's layup put Houston up 80-55 late in the third quarter. Brooks opened the fourth with a 3-pointer that made it 88-58.

Scola finished with 19 points, and Artest had 17.

In New York, LeBron James scored 38 points, including a near-midcourt three-pointer, to spark the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 102-84 victory over the Detroit Pistons in their Eastern Conference playoff opener.

James, who also had eight rebounds and seven assists, banked in the long three-pointer to give top-seeded Cleveland a 12-point lead. Eight-seeded Detroit never recovered.


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