Yao Ming scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets past Milwaukee 85-81 on Wednesday in their final NBA game of 2008.
Using only seven players most of the way, the Rockets improved to 21-12, one-half game behind New Orleans in the Southwest division, while the Bucks tumbled to 15-18.
Two nights after being upset by Eastern Conference doormat Washington, the Rockets bounced back but nearly squandered a lead late in the game before holding off the Bucks, thanks largely to Chinese star center Yao.
Milwaukee’s Michael Redd, who led the Bucks with 20 points, scored six points in a 10-4 run that lifted the visitors within 78-77 with 2:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But the fightback faded as the Bucks turned over the ball on their next possession and missed two 3-pointers in the final minute while the Rockets hit free throws down the stretch the seal the triumph.
Star guard Tracy McGrady, struggling with a sore knee, went only 3-of-10 for seven points from the field but added 10 assists.
Ron Artest had 15 points and Argentine forward Luis Scola added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
MAGIC 113 BULLS 94
The Orlando Magic quickly bounced back to its best with a win over the Bulls on Wednesday, posting its eighth win in nine NBA games.
Having seen its seven-game winning streak end at Detroit on Monday, the Magic were on top of the Bulls early and went on to record a win that stretched its lead in the Southeast Division.
Rashard Lewis led seven Magic scorers in double figures with 21 points, Hedo Turkoglu added 18 points and nine rebounds, while Dwight Howard had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Orlando, who took a commanding 65-38 lead at halftime on Lewis’s 16 points.
Chicago shot just 42 per cent.
“It’s not being arrogant or cocky, [but] when we step on the floor we expect to win,” Magic point guard Jameer Nelson told reporters.
PISTONS 83, NETS 75
In Auburn Hills, Michigan, an undermanned Detroit prevailed over New Jersey in a defensive struggle.
Allen Iverson scored 19 points to top the points for the Pistons, who won a fifth straight game.
Both teams lost key players during the game. New Jersey’s Vince Carter was ejected for arguing a second-quarter call and Rasheed Wallace sat out the second half with a foot injury.
Detroit’s Richard Hamilton (groin) missed his third straight game, and Antonio McDyess sat out after injuring his ribs on Monday.
It was the Nets’ lowest score of the season.
NUGGETS 114, RAPTORS 107
In Toronto, Denver coach George Karl brought up his 900th regular-season victory as the Nuggets downed Toronto.
Nene scored 21 points to lead the Nuggets.
76ERS 100, CLIPPERS 92
In Los Angeles, Philadelphia held off Los Angeles to snap a four-game losing streak.
Andre Iguodala had 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Sixers.
The Clippers tied the game with three and a half minutes remaining but could not keep it up and lost their fifth successive game.
THUNDER 107, WARRIORS 100
In Oklahoma City, the home team notched just the fourth win of its miserable debut season, defeating Golden State.
Jeff Green scored 26 points, including 18 in the second half, and Kevin Durant added 25 in recording his fifth double-double of the season, adding 10 rebounds.
Golden State shot 54 percent from the field in the opening half, but failed to make a field goal in the first five minutes of the third quarter, allowing Oklahoma City to take control of the game.