Yao leads Rockets to win home opener

Updated: 2006-11-05 13:47

With Yao Ming dominating and their defense pounding from the tip, the Houston Rockets rolled to a start-to-finish, in-every-way 107-76 rout of the Dallas Mavericks before 18,245 at Toyota Center, the largest opening night crowd in franchise history.

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (L) grabs a loose ball as Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitski looks on during their NBA game in Houston November 4, 2006. [Reuters]

The Rockets got a spectacular all-around game from point guard Rafer Alston who not only had 14 points and 12 rebounds, but added four steals, didn't commit a turnover, and helped hold long-time Rockets killer Jason Terry to an 0 for 5, one-point shooting night.

While Alston was electric, Yao was unstoppable. In 36 minutes, Yao had 36 points, making 12 of his 16 shots, and all 12 of his free throws, capping his night with a fast break, alley-oop dunk of a Kirk Snyder lob.

The Rockets were so strong offensively, they barely needed Tracy McGrady's help. McGrady came around a bit in the third quarter, making three of his five shots, but he finished with just eight points, playing only 23 minutes as the Rockets pulled away for good with him on the bench.

But nearly everything the Rockets tried Bonzi Wells played for the first time with the Rockets. Snyder moved to the bench and added 12 points. Luther Head, who struggled in the opener, had a 14-point fourth quarter as the Rockets' lead swelled to 33.

For all that went so well, in many ways Yao sent the Rockets flying.

Against a team particularly well-equipped to defend him, with DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier taking turns applying defensive muscle to him, Yao was sensational, scoring more points in the first half, 22, than he averaged against in the Mavericks, 20, last season.

Yao made 8 of 10 shots. He made all eight of his free throws, including two in his unusual role as a 7-footer (and then some) that takes his team's technical free throws.

He ended the half with a shake-the-building flurry, sinking a technical free throw after Dirk Nowitzki had a nutty. Then, with the Rockets inbounding with 1.7 seconds left, he cut to the baseline, took the pass from Alston and swished his 17 footer with a tenth of a second to spare to give the Rockets a 52-38 halftime lead.

Yet as well as the half ended for the Rockets, it began even better, with the Rockets scoring the game's first 12 points.

The Rockets started rapidly offensively in Utah, too, but this was different because defensively, they were swift and swarming as they never were in the season opener.

The Rockets held Dallas to a 16-point first quarter, led by as much as 16 and never trailed. They survived a half in which Tracy McGrady made 1 of 6 shots and missed all three of his free throws and got more of a lift of the bench from Wells and Snyder than the reserves offered combined in the opener.

By the fourth quarter, the game grew to complete rout, and a Toyota Center celebration the Rockets had longed to launch.

Top Sport News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours