Rockets 98, Kings 89

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HOUSTON (AP)—Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy called Jon Barry at home on Tuesday and delivered a terse, motivational speech over the phone.

If Van Gundy keeps getting these kinds of results, he might be calling more of his players.

Barry scored 24 points, outscoring Houston stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady and leading the Rockets to a 98-89 win over the Kings on Wednesday night.

Van Gundy told Barry he was disappointed in the veteran guard’s effort at recent practices. Barry agreed and said the call shook him out his doldrums.

“I needed a kick in the butt and it was good,” Barry said. “I don’t want him to call me every other day, but that’s the effort I need to play with. I told him that wouldn’t be a problem.”

Barry grabbed a microphone before the game and gave his coach some good-natured ribbing, saying he hoped the fans had the same “optimism and enthusiasm” for the season that the notoriously critical Van Gundy had.

Van Gundy laughed, then told Barry the diatribe would cost him five minutes of playing time.

“I would’ve had 30-something, but he yanked me out of there a couple of times,” said Barry, acquired in a December 2004 trade for Tyronn Lue.

For one night, Barry was the complement to Yao and McGrady the Rockets have been seeking since acquiring McGrady in June 2004. Houston’s All-Star duo were their usual productive selves against the Kings.

McGrady had 23 points after sitting out Houston’s last two preseason games with tendinitis in both knees and Yao added 22 points and 10 rebounds.

But it sure was nice to have Barry scoring, too.

“They couldn’t double-team as much and that freed us,” said Yao. “He is a very good scorer and a very good shooter and definitely a player we can count on. That took a lot of pressure off of us and I believe that can help us win a lot of games.”

Barry sank 8 of 10 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers. He also went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.

Bonzi Wells had 22 points and a career-high 18 rebounds and Brad Miller added 21 for Sacramento.

The Kings led early as the Rockets faced a familiar problem from last year— foul trouble for Yao. The 7-foot-6 center picked up his second foul just four minutes into the game and Miller converted a three-point play for an 11-4 Kings’ lead.

Yao went to the bench and McGrady walked gingerly to the sideline five minutes later. McGrady wore a black wrap around his left leg, and said he played in pain.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said. “It hurts every time I jump. I can’t be as explosive as I want. I’m just real tentative.”

Both of Houston’s stars returned for the second quarter and the Rockets were a different team, using a 15-4 run to take a 33-31 lead.

But Yao got his third foul with 1:20 left in the half and the Kings went to the break with a 49-46 lead.

Sacramento missed 14 of its first 16 shots to start the second half and the Rockets built a 10-point lead after dunks by McGrady and Yao’s backup, Dikembe Mutombo.

“Our intensity was much better in the second half, our effort level was much higher,” Van Gundy said.

One of the NBA’s highest scoring teams last season, the Kings were throwing up air balls and bouncing shots off the top of the backboard during their abysmal third quarter.

But Kings coach Rick Adelman said he saw progress from Sacramento’s 93-67 loss to New Orleans on Tuesday night.

“We played a lot better tonight, we just missed a ton of shots in the third quarter,” Adelman said. “It’s not encouraging to lose, but it was encouraging to play better.”

The Rockets couldn’t pull away, though, missing 5 of their last 7 shots in the quarter.

Yao returned with 10:53 left, McGrady was back a minute later and the Rockets controlled their opener from there.

The Rockets won their season opener for only the third time in eight years. ^Notes: Houston’s 6-2 preseason record matched their best since 1995, when they were coming off their second straight NBA championship. … Houston forward Dion Glover and guard Bobby Sura sat out Wednesday’s game with knee injuries. Lonny Baxter was also inactive, but the Rockets said he wasn’t injured. …Yao reached double figures for the 44th straight game. …The Kings are 0-2 for the second straight season. They lost their first three games last season, including a 104-101 loss at Houston.

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B. Miller B. Miller
8-16,  21 Pts
8 Rebs, 7 Assists
Y. Ming Y. Ming
10-16,  22 Pts
10 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders