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Rockets get sixth straight win vs. Nets

HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets made it look easy against the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night.

Yao Ming had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Shane Battier scored a season-high 19 points in the Rockets' 114-88 rout.

Von Wafer scored 19 points and Ron Artest added 18 for the Rockets, who outrebounded New Jersey 56-30 and set season highs in 3-point field goals (15) and assists (27) in their sixth straight win over the Nets.

"We had a great game passing the ball and our spacing was excellent," said Battier, who went 5-for-7 from 3-point range. "When we play like that, everybody gets shots and when you move the ball like that, you have more confidence in your shooting. Good things happen when you run the offense the way you are supposed to."

The Rockets' season has been marred by inconsistency, a puzzling mix of wins over playoff-bound teams and losses to mediocre opponents. They were sharp from start-to-finish against the overmatched Nets, who trailed by at least 14 points the entire second half.

"We were always worried about how we were going to play after the [All-Star] break," Battier said. "We had about four days off and I feel like after practicing, the passion is there and it seems like everybody feels like we can't waste any time. We wanted to get our rest and come back and play the way we needed to play."

Artest started in place of Tracy McGrady, who sat out for the second straight game and the 19th time this season with an injury. McGrady said just before the All-Star break that he would take an indefinite leave to seek input from doctors on the best course of treatment for his troublesome left knee.

The Rockets improved to 13-6 without McGrady this season.

Vince Carter scored 30 points and Brook Lopez added 21 for the Nets, who have lost three straight after a four-game winning streak.

"It was a tough night," Carter said. "We have to do better if we want to win. We have to focus for 48 minutes and they took the life out of us."

Yi Jianlian scored five points for the Nets in his first game since Jan. 9, when he went out with a broken finger on his right hand. Yi quietly checked into the game with 7:52 left in the first quarter. Last season, Yi's arrival in Houston to face Yao's Rockets created a media frenzy and was a major event in China -- the first time the nation's two biggest basketball stars faced off in the NBA. The Rockets beat Yi and Milwaukee 104-88.

In this one, Yao outmuscled Yi for an offensive rebound and dunked to give the Rockets their first lead, 17-16. The Nets missed 12 of their last 13 shots in the first quarter and Yao's dunk continued a 17-1 run that eventually put Houston up 27-17.

The Rockets missed their first eight shots of the second quarter and led only 28-23 after Lopez ended New Jersey's eight-minute field-goal drought with a fadeaway.

Houston then took control with an 18-5 spurt, holding the Nets to two field goals over a six-minute stretch. The Rockets outrebounded New Jersey 32-21 in the half and led 56-40.

"We fought back and midway through the second quarter, they knocked down shots and we never recovered," said Devin Harris, who scored 10 points for the Nets.

Carter scored 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting in the first half -- the rest of the Nets went 9-for-30 from the field.

The Rockets maintained their comfortable lead in the second half and even started getting lucky bounces. Luis Scola threw a high pass to Yao and the ball skipped off Yao's fingertips and rattled into the basket.

Yao came out with 4:19 left in the game and Houston leading 100-77.

Game notes
Carter reached 30 points for the eighth time this season, but for the first time since Dec. 29. ... Houston reserve forward Carl Landry sprained his right ankle fighting for a loose ball late in the first half and did not return. Landry had six points and seven rebounds. ... Before the game, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said the team wasn't likely to deal McGrady before Thursday's trade deadline. "I don't think we're going to part ways with Tracy," Alexander said. "We acquired a great superstar and everybody wants us to trade the great superstar. You don't get superstars that often." McGrady did not attend Tuesday's game.