Yao Ming (姚明) scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds to power the Houston Rockets past Cleveland 93-74 on Thursday, shutting down superstar playmaker LeBron James in a rout of the Cavaliers.
Houston’s Chinese star center scored 10 points in the third quarter to match Cleveland’s entire offensive output in the period, the Rockets breaking open a tight game with a 23-10 scoring edge in the third quarter for a 68-50 lead.
“Yao was a handful for us,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “We tried to mix up coverages, but everything we threw at him he seemed to convert. Yao was awesome.”
James finished with 21 points on 7-of-21 shooting, managed to pull down only one rebound and went without an assist for the first time in his National Basketball Association career after 446 games in a row with at least one.
“I’m not happy about that at all. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have one,” James said. “We just can’t seem to get in a good flow against this team. A lot of credit has to go to them. Their defense keeps you on the perimeter. Defensively we played really well. Offensively, we couldn’t make a shot and we could never get in any rhythm.”
The Cavaliers fell to 44-12, still the second-best record in the league to the Los Angeles Lakers and the top mark in the Eastern Conference.
The Rockets won their sixth game in a row and improved to 37-21, fourth in the Western Conference, with their 21st home win in 24 games.
Cleveland’s title hopes suffered a major setback when power forward Ben Wallace suffered a fractured right fibula after being accidentally kicked by Yao in the second quarter.
Wallace tried to play through the pain but went to the locker room, where the injury was diagnosed during the second half. He would later return to the team bench on crutches. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.
“I don’t know how much I can realistically help the team if I just come back for the playoffs,” Wallace said.
James was slowed with foul trouble, picking up his fourth just 3:27 into the second half. That kept James from driving to the basket and combined with poor shooting from the rest of the Cavaliers kept the Rockets on top to stay.
“It was just that type of game for him,” Houston’s Ron Artest said. “It was a game where we left him open and he had to take shots. I think he still made the right decisions. I love to play defense. It was definitely a team effort.”
The Cavaliers hit only 27-of-80 shots from the field on the way to their lowest one-game point total of the season.
Reserve Von Wafer scored 19 points for Houston, while Artest added 15 for the Rockets.
LAKERS 132, SUNS 106
At Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 22 points and passed out eight assists on Thursday to spark the Los Angeles Lakers past Phoenix for their sixth victory in a row.
Bryant scored 13 points and went 6-of-6 from the field in the first quarter, which ended with a 22-6 Lakers run for a 39-26 edge that the Suns never overcame.
Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Spain’s Pau Gasol scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Every Laker scored at least three points as the team hit 54-of-94 shots.
Leandro Barbosa sparked Phoenix with 18 points, seven assists and six boards while former Laker Shaquille O’Neal finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, but the Suns struggled without injured guard Steve Nash and top scorer Amare Stoudemire, out for the season after right eye surgery.