Yao dominates Grizzlies as Rockets cruise to victory at home

HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets got the easy win they needed before the challenging week to come.

Yao Ming had 24 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks and the Rockets extended their home-court winning streak to 12 games with a 93-83 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

Luis Scola added 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, who inched ahead of Utah and New Orleans for fourth place in the Western Conference. Now comes the hard part, with games this week against Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio.

"We need to get all those games you should win, against teams that have no chance to make the playoffs," Scola said. "Those are games, especially at home, that you have to have."

Rudy Gay scored 21 points and Marc Gasol added 18 for the Grizzlies, who've lost 10 of 11 and seven of their last eight road games. O.J. Mayo, the Grizzlies' leading scorer, had only 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting after scoring 32 in Memphis' 104-93 win over Houston on Feb. 4.

The Rockets have lost twice in Memphis this season, mostly because of shabby defense. Houston outrebounded the Grizzlies 50-36 and held them to 38 percent shooting this time around.

"We cannot play like we played the last two times against them, in their house," Yao said. "We wanted to set the tone for the game."

The 7-foot-1 Gasol picked up two early fouls guarding Yao and went to the bench. Houston outrebounded Memphis 19-7 in the first quarter and led 28-19.

Gasol was back for the start of the second quarter, but the Rockets continued to pull away. Chuck Hayes slipped inside for a layup and Carl Landry dunked to put Houston up by 15.

Gay stole the ball from Hayes and scored with 8:51 left in the half to end a 4-minute field-goal drought for Memphis. But the Rockets blocked eight shots through the first quarter and a half and stayed in control.

Houston coach Rick Adelman said the Rockets talked about the previous losses to Memphis and the importance of this game with the tough tests ahead.

"Where we are right now, you can't afford a game like that at home, where you slip up," Adelman said. "We talked about how this is the first one this week. You go to Denver, then you have the Lakers and then at Charlotte, who's been playing very well, and then we have San Antonio to finish it off. So, this was an important game for us. We needed to get this win to start the week."

Landry swatted Gasol's shot with 5:48 left in the half and left the game with a twisted right ankle. Yao replaced Landry and immediately scored for a 41-29 Houston lead. Landry returned late in the second quarter.

Yao had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the first two quarters for his 30th double-double of the season. The Rockets shot 50 percent (20-for-40) and outrebounded Memphis 30-16 in the first half to lead 55-37 at the break.

The Grizzlies shot 30 percent (14 of 46) in the first half.

"They forced us into it," said Gay, who went 9-for-20 from the field. "You have to give them a lot of respect, because they force you out of your rhythm."

Gay scored only two points in the third quarter and the Rockets led 75-57 heading to the fourth period. Yao was on the bench for the start of the final quarter and Gay hit two off-balance jumpers to pull the Grizzlies within 13.

Yao returned and the Rockets reeled off seven straight points to push the lead to 20. Houston led 91-66 with 4:27 left when Yao came out for good, getting some valuable rest before Monday night's game in Denver.

Kyle Lowry, the Grizzlies' first-round draft pick in 2006, had nine assists for the Rockets. Lowry came to Houston on Feb. 19 in the deal that sent Rafer Alston to Orlando. The Grizzlies are 1-7 since Lowry's departure.

Game notes
Scola has 25 double-doubles this season. ... The Grizzlies dropped to 1-22 when they fail to score 20 points in the first quarter this season. Memphis was held under 20 points in each of the first two quarters for the fourth time this season. ... The Rockets play 13 of their final 18 games against teams with winning records. ... Memphis backup point guard Marko Jaric sat out after spraining his right ankle in Saturday's loss to Philadelphia.