With two of the Big Three sidelined with injuries, Yao Ming keeps coming up with big performances for Houston.
Yao and the short-handed Rockets go for their third straight win on Wednesday night as they host a Utah Jazz team that has been ravaged by injuries all season.
Houston (26-16) closes out its five-game homestand on Wednesday following a 115-113 win over Denver on Monday night. Despite missing his first two shots, Yao hit 13-of-19 from the floor, including 5-of-8 in the fourth, and finished with 31 points.
“He was terrific,” said Rockets coach Rick Adelman, whose team has won 11 of its last 13 games at the Toyota Center. “He made some really positive plays.”
Yao has been doing a lot of that lately with Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest out. Yao is averaging 21.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and shooting 67.5 percent from the field as Houston has posted a 5-1 record since dropping three straight from Jan. 2-6.
In his last seven home games against Utah, Yao has averaged 27.6 points and 11.1 boards. He had 26 points and 11 rebounds in a 120-115 double overtime win over the Jazz on Dec. 27.
Artest, who scored 10 of his game-high 28 points in double overtime in that victory, has missed the last five games with a sprained right ankle and will not play Wednesday. Artest went through a light practice on Tuesday, and he’s scheduled for a bone scan on Wednesday morning.
McGrady also went through a limited practice on Tuesday, although he won’t return to face Utah. He’s missed the last four games to rest his sore left knee.
Rafer Alston posted his first double-double of the season on Monday with 18 points and a season-high 11 assists. He’s averaging 17.0 points and 6.3 assists in the last four games.
While the Rockets play another game without their full roster, so will Utah. Heading into Monday night’s 112-107 win over Minnesota, the Jazz (25-17) had lost 116 man games to injury this season. Utah might have to add another number to that quickly rising total as Andrei Kirilenko left in the second quarter with an inflamed right ankle. He did not return after scoring five points in nine minutes.
“When he went out of the ballgame, it limited us in what we were able to do,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
Mehmet Okur scored 22 points on Tuesday, including back-to-back 3s in the final three minutes after the Timberwolves pulled within 97-96.
“My shot was cold in the first half but I tried to mix up my game in the second half,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a long game, so I stayed focused and hungry. Deron (Williams) did a good job finding me.”
Williams, who had 17 points and 11 assists versus Minnesota, is averaging 24.4 points and 9.8 assists in the last five games. He had 14 points and 11 assists in Utah’s loss at Houston on Dec. 27.
Paul Millsap recorded his 20th double-double of the season on Tuesday with 28 points and 15 rebounds. He missed this season’s first meeting with the Rockets due to a sprained ligament in his left knee.
Utah went 3-1 in Houston last season, including two wins during its first-round playoff victory.