Thursday , Feb , 23 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Rockets best sinking Clips

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Yao Ming scored 29 points and hauled down 15
rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets past the Los Angeles Clippers, 106-102,
at the Toyota Center.

Tracy McGrady donated 26 points and five assists while David Wesley chipped in
21 points for Houston, which has won eight of its last 10 overall.

Elton Brand paced all scorers with 32 points and gathered 12 rebounds for the
Clippers, who have lost five straight games. Cuttino Mobley poured in 30
points while Sam Cassell finished with 13 points and nine assists in the loss.

“We have to decide if we want to be a very good team or a great team,” Brand
said. We’ve shown the talent at times, but we have to learn to do it for the
entire game.”

The Rockets outscored LA 31-18 in the second quarter to assume a 59-45
halftime advantage. The teams traded leads in the early portion of the frame,
but Houston ripped off a 12-2 run — which was capped by a Luther Head layup
with 5:29 to go — that put them up 46-36. Houston gradually built its lead up
from there.

The Clippers outworked the Rockets 31-21 in the third stanza to pull within
four, 80-76, heading into the final 12 minutes. Brand’s jumper with 7:17
remaining in the quarter made it 63-56, and LA outscored its opponent 14-9
down the stretch to inch even closer.

The game remained close for much of the fourth quarter, but a 6-2 spurt in the
latter stages helped seal it for Houston. McGrady started the mini-charge with
an energizing alley-oop slam that put the Rockets up by nine with just over
three minutes to play.

“We were able to get good shots. When you have two dominating All-Stars out
there (Yao and McGrady), those shots will fall,” said Rafer Alston.

Then, after a pair of Mobley free throws, Juwan Howard hit a pair of his own
from the stripe and Keith Bogans followed with a driving layup to make it
103-92 with 2:21 on the clock.

The Clippers mounted one final surge and moved to within three after a Mobley
jumper with 18 ticks left, but Wesley buried one of his two free throws at the
other end and then Howard came up with a game-clinching steal.

Game Notes

The Rockets have won 11 of the last 12 matchups with the Clips. Los Angeles
has also lost six straight and eight of its last 10 in Houston…Houston,
which will close a two-game homestand against Golden State on Friday, is 9-16
in its arena this season…The Clippers, who return home for three games
following tonight’s contest, are 13-14 away from home this season.