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Kings down Rockets, cut magic number to three

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Brad Miller had one primary thought
entering Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets -- make Yao Ming
work.

Sacramento's veteran center outplayed the more heralded 7-foot-6
Yao, getting 30 points and 11 rebounds in the Kings' 86-77 victory
that moved them closer to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Kings, who have won three straight and six of seven, reduced
their magic number to clinch a playoff berth to three. Currently
tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for seventh place, the Kings have
four games remaining, three of them at home.

Miller continually made Houston pay for clogging up the middle
with Yao. He made 10 of 18 shots, most of them from the perimeter,
in helping Sacramento to an early 16-2 lead in a game where Houston
never led.

Besides being productive on offense, Miller also kept Yao in
check through much of the game, especially during the first half
when the Kings led by 14 points.

Yao got off to a slow start, yet still finished with 19 points
and 12 rebounds. Frustrated at times, he also had six turnovers,
five fouls, no blocks and one technical.

"You've got to tire him out, push him, run him," Miller said.
"You need to make him work at both ends of the court."

Mike Bibby scored 23 points and had two of his five 3-pointers
in the fourth quarter to halt Houston's comeback. Ron Artest had 15
points and Bonzi Wells added 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Although hardly at their best, the Kings had enough to get by
struggling Houston. The victory increased Sacramento's lead to
three games over New Orleans and Utah, who are tied for ninth in
the Western Conference.

"It's a 'W.' I don't care if it was by one point or 100,"
Wells said. "We're keeping this thing rolling."

Juwan Howard scored 22 points and Luther Head added 13 for
Houston, which has lost four of five.

Clinging to a two-point lead midway through the fourth quarter,
the Kings produced a 9-2 run. Shareef Abdur-Rahim dunked off a fast
break to conclude the run, putting Sacramento ahead 76-67 with 4:26
remaining.

"They are a great team. I don't think they missed a shot down
the stretch," Houston's Keith Bogans said. "We had some coverages
and miscommunications coming down the stretch and they capitalized
on them."

Following a quiet first half in which he was 2-of-6 and scored
seven points, Yao became more assertive in the second half. He
scored eight points in the third quarter, when Houston cut the
Kings' lead to 64-59 entering the fourth period.

"At the start of the third quarter we came out and they closed
it right away," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We didn't move it
(the ball), especially in the third quarter. It was one pass, one
dribble, one shot. That's what will happen when you play a team
like that."

Bibby scored 17 points and Miller had 13, helping the Kings take
a 49-35 lead into halftime.

Game notes
Houston point guard Rafer Alston missed all 11 shots and
finished with one point, nine assists and six turnovers. ... The
Kings have made the playoffs the last seven years. ... Sacramento's
reserves had just six points, three each from Abdur-Rahim and Kevin
Martin.