Yao has 24 points as Rockets pound Blazers

The Sports Network
4/19/2009 2:27:20 AM
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Portland, OR (Sports Network) - Yao Ming scored all 24 of his points during a dominating first half as the Houston Rockets started their quest to snap a string of playoff futility by blowing out Portland, 108-81, in the opener of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Aaron Brooks went 5-of-8 from three-point range, on the way to scoring 27 for the fifth-seeded Rockets, who haven't won a playoff series since 1997, a span of six straight first-round exits. They'll try to accomplish the feat without the services of standout Tracy McGrady, who is out for the postseason due to microfracture surgery on his knee, although he's never won a first-round series in his career.

Luis Scola had 19 points and Ron Artest 17 for Houston, which bolted to an 11- point lead after one quarter and held a commanding 62-44 cushion at the half thanks largely to Yao. He made all nine of his shots from the field in the opening 24 minutes.

"Our goal was to come out, especially in the first quarter, and get the tempo of the game in our favor," said Rockets coach Rick Adelman, who led Portland to a pair of Western Conference championships (1990, '92). "We were able to get the first hit in that first quarter and gain control at both ends of the court. That's about as consistent we've played in a while."

Brandon Roy scored 21 for the Trail Blazers, who were dealt their largest home playoff defeat in franchise history. Portland, which is in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, also got 15 points from Greg Oden. He sat out practice Friday due to a sinus infection, but wasn't much of a factor as the Blazers, who were on a six-game winning streak, were overwhelmed by Houston's 58.5 percent shooting from the field.

"The disappointing part is we didn't play like the way we played the last six games," said Roy. "We played like a young team that was a little intimidated."

The 27-point loss ties for the fourth-largest margin of defeat in the postseason for Portland.

"I thought we got on our heels after they made the first few shots," said Blazers coach Nate McMillan. "They were the aggressive team throughout the game. We didn't get any stops early and that was a shock to our guys. We needed to get closer, but we got a little hesitant as far as everything we were doing."

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Tuesday night in Portland.

Instead of Portland, it was the Rockets who got off to a blazing start, going 15-of-20 from the field in the first quarter. Yao made all seven of his shots, on the way to 16 points. He accounted for the game's first seven points, finishing the spurt with a bucket off an assist from Brooks, who played his college ball at the University of Oregon.

Houston continued to pressure the Blazers throughout the quarter, and a layup from Brooks expanded the lead to 34-23 after 12 minutes.

Travis Outlaw's jumper had Portland within 46-39 with four minutes left until halftime, but the Rockets used a big 14-2 flurry to take control. Brooks canned two free throws to finish the rally.

Roy hit a layup in the waning seconds of the half, but Houston then called a timeout and drew up a play for Brooks, who dribbled to the right of the lane and sank a runner at the buzzer.

"It gave us momentum going into halftime," said Brooks. "We got off to a great lead and were feeling good. I think the most important thing we did was, in the third quarter, we did pretty good of making sure they didn't go on a run."

The Rockets led by at least 20 nearly the entire third quarter despite Yao picking up his fourth foul with 6:28 left. They expanded the margin to 85-58 moving to the fourth following a Brooks three-pointer.

"What I really liked about us in the second half is Yao didn't score and we still maintained control of the game," said Adelman. "We found other ways to score when he got in foul trouble and was out of the game."

Oden got some points during the early portion of the fourth quarter, but the decision was well in hand for the visitors.

Game Notes

Yao's 16 first-quarter points were two shy of the most scored in a playoff quarter for the Rockets. Hakeem Olajuwon had 18 in the opening quarter of a game against Utah during the 1995 postseason...Houston held a 44-30 rebounding advantage...Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge struggled on a 3-for-12 shooting night and finished with seven points...Yao also had nine rebounds.

Yao Ming and Brandon Roy (Photo: The Canadian Press )


(Photo: The Canadian Press )
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