Yao Ming is playing his best at the right time.
Yao got off to a slow start, but he has been a dominant force over the last month.
The 7-foot-6 center is averaging 22.4 points over the last 10 games, raising his scoring average to a team-high 17.5 points. The Chinese-born Yao is shooting 58.3 percent from the floor and 90.6 percent (48-for-53) from the free-throw line during that span.
Yao’s strong play has Houston in seventh place in the Western Conference with 20 games to play. The Rockets play four more home games before finishing with 11 of their final 16 on the road.
Houston has won four of six and is coming off consecutive wins over Western Conference powers Minnesota and Dallas.
Yao scored 29 points, including five in the final 45 seconds, as the Rockets beat the Mavericks 101-98 on Sunday.
Yao is shooting 53.8 percent from the floor on the season, third in the NBA. The Rockets, who shoot only 43.8 percent as a team, are 23-3 when shooting 45 percent or better, and 13-23 when under that mark.
Yao could be in for another big game against the struggling Clippers, who have lost 11 of 14.
Corey Maggette had 18 points and a career-high nine assists for the Clippers, one night after eclipsing his previous career best in assists with seven.
Richardson left because of a sprained back with in the third quarter and did not return.
“As of right now he’ll probably miss some games, but I don’t know,” Maggette said. “He already had back spasms in the game before against Memphis. Hopefully he’ll be better.”
Richardson is third on the team in scoring at 17.3 points per game.