Monday , Feb , 05 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Rockets still a major player in the West

(Sports Network) – Even without All-Star center Yao Ming, the Houston
Rockets are playing winning basketball and are in the thick of the Western
Conference playoff race.

The Rockets are a solid 29-17 and sit in third place in the Southwest
Division, nine games behind the first place Dallas Mavericks.

Yao, who leads the Rockets in scoring (25.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.4
rpg), suffered a non displaced fracture in a bone under his right knee
during a 98-93 loss on December 23rd to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The 7-6 Yao, who was voted as a starter by the fans for the All-Star Game, is
expected to be sidelined at least until late February and will not participate
in the mid-season classic.

Houston is 13-6 without Yao in the lineup this season.

The struggling Minnesota Timberwolves try to put the brakes on a three-game
losing streak when they visit the Rockets on Monday at the Toyota Center. It
is the fourth and final meeting of the campaign between the squads. Minnesota
won two of the three previous contests. The Timberwolves have lost five of
nine and six of their last 11 at Houston.

Houston will also try to get back on the winning track, as it plays the finale
of a five-game homestand against the Timberwolves. Devin Brown led a balanced
scoring attack with 18 points as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
defeated the Rockets, 87-74, on Saturday at the Toyota Center.

Tracy McGrady, who will start for the West in February 18th’s All-Star Game,
scored 18 for Houston, which tied season lows for points in a first quarter,
15 and first half, 30. Luther Head netted 14 and Bonzi Wells registered 13
points for the Rockets who had a four-game winning streak halted.

The Rockets are 16-6 at home this season. After Monday’s contest, they
will hit the road and visit Memphis on Tuesday and Dallas on Friday.