Rockets 92, Hawks 69

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HOUSTON (AP)—Yao Ming wouldn’t let the Rockets lose another home game, especially to the reeling Atlanta Hawks.

Yao scored 23 points—including seven during a pivotal third-quarter run— and blocked a season-high five shots to lead the Rockets to a 92-69 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night.

“We are only 6-6 at home, that’s not good,” Yao said. “Somebody had to take control of the game because we’ve got to improve at home.

Yao’s 11 third-quarter points equaled the Hawks’ total, the best defensive period by the Rockets this season.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to take control,” Yao said. “Tonight, I just got hot.”

It was the biggest blowout of the season for Houston, which won for the fourth time in five games. The Hawks have lost three straight games, and nine of their last 11.

McGrady led Houston in scoring with 25 points. It was the sixth time this season that Yao and McGrady have each scored 20 or more in a game.

“Coach is giving me the freedom to go out there and play and that is what I am doing now,” McGrady said. “I can get it going at any given time. If I see that we are struggling offensively, then that’s when I like to take over.”

Al Harrington and Josh Smith were the lone bright spots for Atlanta, which shot 34.2 percent. Harrington had 21 points and eight rebounds, while Smith added 14 points and 10 boards.

With Houston leading 41-36 at the half, Yao’s play on the offensive end sparked a 12-2 run at the beginning of the third quarter as the Rockets opened up a 13-point lead, 53-40.

“In the third quarter they came out and just outscored us,” Harrington said. “We didn’t execute and they didn’t look back.

“It’s very frustrating to keep losing, but we have to keep plugging away,” Harrington added. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. Hopefully before it is too late we will be able to turn this thing.”

Jim Jackson added 13 points for Houston, while Juwan Howard scored 11.

Houston scored 16 straight in the first quarter to take a 18-6 lead, with Jackson scoring seven during the run.

The Hawks chipped away at the Houston lead, cutting the deficit to 39-36 late in the second period before things got out of hand.

Notes

Houston activated guard Tyronn Lue and placed guard Reece Gaines on the injured list. Gaines has left ankle tendinitis … Yao is the only Rockets to start all 22 games this season … Jackson has hit at least one 3-pointer in his last 21 games, two games shy of the Houston record for the most consecutive games with a 3-pointer.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Atlanta
J. Smith J. Smith
3-5,  14 Pts
10 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Houston
T. McGrady T. McGrady
9-20,  25 Pts
6 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists