Yao scored 15 of his 23 points in the final period to lead the Houston Rockets to an 85-83 victory over the Warriors on Wednesday night.
Golden State, coming off a loss at San Antonio on Tuesday, took a 71-68 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then Yao scored the Rockets’ next 11 points and Cuttino Mobley hit a 3-pointer for an 82-81 lead with 1:30 remaining and Houston never trailed again.
Yao said he could tell Warriors center Erick Dampier was not at his best the final quarter.
“I felt he was low on energy. He wasn’t 100 percent,” Yao said. “In the fourth quarter, their energy level went down. The difference between the first three quarters and the final quarter was obvious.”
Steve Francis, who also scored 23 points, said the Rockets’ fourth-quarter plan should be obvious.
“Sometimes we almost force-feed the ball to Yao,” Francis said. “We did that in the fourth quarter tonight and he made good decisions on whether to pass it back out or go in and score. He came up big in the fourth quarter.”
Dampier held Yao to eight points the first three quarters and downplayed the center’s success in the last period.
“I just played him like I’ve been playing,” Dampier said. “He got a couple of shots to fall in the fourth, and that was the difference in the game. He hit a couple of tough shots. He got a layup on the fast break and got a couple of easy baskets for them during that stretch.
“We didn’t double-team him the whole game. He’s not a Shaquille. There’s no need to double-team him.”
Coach Eric Musselman had no complaints with Dampier’s work, but was unhappy with the his team’s shooting as the Warriors lost their fourth straight.
“Eric did a phenomenal job defensively on Yao, but Yao’s a good player and he made shots in the fourth quarter,” Musselman said. “It’s the same thing it’s been all year. We were 3-of-17 behind 3-point line and we shot 60 percent from the free throw line. That was the difference in the game.”
Houston led by a point with 15 seconds left, but Yao missed two free throws. Kelvin Cato made a foul shot with two seconds remaining for the final margin.
Yao also had 11 rebounds as Houston beat Golden State for the fourth time in the last five meetings. Maurice Taylor returned from a six-game suspension and scored seven points in 15 minutes.
Clifford Robinson scored a season-high 23 points for the Warriors.
Dampier had 15 points and 11 rebounds, but missed two free throws that would have given Golden State the lead with 18.5 seconds to play.
Golden State hit seven of its first 10 shots, including six straight points by Robinson, to begin the third quarter for a 56-55 lead.
A 7-0 run late in the quarter gave the Warriors their largest lead at 65-61. Jim Jackson made a 3-pointer with three seconds left as Houston closed within 65-64 after three quarters.
Golden State hit only two of its first 11 shots and committed three turnovers in falling behind 14-6 in the first 5 1/2 minutes.
Houston led by as many as 11 in the second quarter as Bostjan Nachbar scored six straight points during a 9-2 run. Francis had 15 points at halftime as theRockets took a 44-40 lead.
The Rockets are 7-0 when leading after the first quarter … Houston is 5-1 at the new Toyota Center … Houston has won 24 of its last 29 games against Golden State … The Warriors are 0-4 on the road this season …Dampier got his NBA-leading 11th double-double of the season.