China’s giant center Yao Ming had 20 points and 12 rebounds while Ron Artest and Shane Battier combined to score 37 points as the shorthanded Houston Rockets beat the New Jersey Nets 114-88 on Tuesday.
A report by US sports broadcaster ESPN on Tuesday said that Tracy McGrady would be out for the rest of the season with a right knee injury.
The Rockets have made a habit of playing without McGrady. The seven-time All-Star has missed 19 games this season because of the knee, which was surgically repaired during the off-season.
Even without part of its “Big Three,” Houston was able to sweep its matchup against New Jersey, which has lost six straight in the series.
Vince Carter scored 30 points and Brook Lopez added 21 and nine rebounds for the Nets, who got only five points from Yi Jianlian.
The Chinese forward played against countryman and Olympic teammate Yao, with the duo providing the country’s two most prominent basketball names.
“I knew it was his first game back from a hand injury would be hard,” Yao said of Yi. “At halftime, I told him to take it easy. I know the last couple of years when I come back from an injury, my wind was really horrible. I felt like a newborn.”
Yao’s dunk with 2:45 left in the first quarter gave the Rockets the lead for good and helped them on their way to a 27-17 advantage after one.
They finished the period on a 17-0 run, with five of the last seven coming from Artest, who sandwiched a layup and a three around a hook by Yao.
Houston finished strong in the second quarter, when Battier drilled a 3-pointer with one tick left en route to a 56-40 lead at intermission. The team also held a 19-point lead entering the fourth.
Houston outrebounded New Jersey 56-30 and shot 15-of-29 from the arc. The Rockets, who held a double-digit advantage for most of the game, kept their foot on the gas in the final period, when they engineered a 15-2 run. Houston capped the spurt with Luis Scola’s layup to make it 107-80 with 2:31 left.
Aaron Brooks’ jumper with 32 ticks left provided the largest advantage in the contest, 114-86, before Yi’s dunk helped reach the final margin with 21 seconds remaining.
New Jersey appeared to be heading toward the All-Star break red-hot before dropping its last two games to spoil a season-high, four-game winning streak.
In other games it was:
• Magic 107, Bobcats 102
• Suns 140, Clippers 100
• Knicks 112, Spurs 107, OT
• Lakers 96, Hawks 83
• Hornets 100, Thunder 98
• Jazz 117, Grizzlies 99
• Bucks 92, Pistons 86
• Pacers 100, 76ers 91