Carl Landry matched a career high with 22 points, Luis Scola added 20 points and 16 rebounds and the Rockets extended their home-court winning streak to 10 games with a 107-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
Yao Ming added 20 points and 11 rebounds, but struggled at times against Toronto big men Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. That created opportunities for Landry and Scola, two energetic forwards who combined for 22 points and 11 rebounds in the second half to help Houston pull away.
“Everybody is going to be thinking about Yao,” Scola said. “We need to punish them for that. So, hopefully, they’ll stop thinking about him. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Landry twice checked into the game to replace Yao and the Rockets outscored the Raptors 86-56 with Landry on the floor.
“We have to be aggressive,” said Landry, playing his second game after missing the previous five with a sprained ankle. “If they want to front Yao and play him like they did tonight, that’s when the rest of the players on the team have to be aggressive.”
The Rockets moved a game ahead of New Orleans and Portland and 1 1/2 in front of Utah in the Western Conference standings. The Rockets play the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Bosh and Bargnani scored 25 points apiece and Jose Calderon matched a career high with 16 assists for the Raptors, who’ve lost seven of their last eight road games.
The Rockets led 79-74 in the final quarter, when Landry converted a three-point play and Yao scored twice over Bargnani to push the lead over 10.
The Raptors responded with a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 86-82, but Bosh came up limping after fighting Yao for a rebound. He appeared to aggravate the right knee injury that forced him to miss five games in February.
Bosh stayed in the game, but Von Wafer hit two 3-pointers to stretch Houston’s lead to 96-84. Bosh went to the bench, then returned with 2:13 left, but the Rockets were up 100-88 at that point and never let the lead dip under 10 again.
Led by Landry, Houston’s bench outscored Toronto’s reserves 44-16.
“Their bench play was outstanding,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “It’s big when you have that kind of production.”
Bargnani and Bosh dominated Yao early, scoring Toronto’s first 22 points. They pulled Houston’s center away from the basket and either shot over him or drove around him for layups. The duo also handled Yao on defense early, forcing him into a 2-for-6 start.
Bargnani’s second 3-pointer put the Raptors up 22-10 and Houston coach Rick Adelman replaced Yao with the smaller, more mobile Landry. The Rockets went to a zone defense with Yao on the bench and cut the lead to 26-20.
Yao returned for the start of the second quarter and scored twice over Bargnani in the first minute. Bargnani went out with his third foul and Bosh replaced him.
But the Rockets had solved Toronto’s defense by then, mounting a 15-4 spurt over the next four minutes. Yao converted two offensive rebounds into dunks before Wafer finished off the run with another slam to put Houston up 42-35.
The Rockets shot 64 percent (14 of 22) in the second quarter and led 57-49 at the break.
“We tried to play faster in the first quarter and it was working,” Calderon said. “But they kept making plays.”
Bargnani was back for the start of the third quarter and sank two 3-pointers to finish a quick 11-3 run. Yao struggled again in the third quarter, missing his first two shots with two turnovers.
Landry replaced Yao again with 3:50 left in the third quarter and the score tied 68-all. Landry scored twice and Houston led 77-72 heading to the fourth quarter.
Yao moved into sixth place on the Rockets’ all-time scoring list, reaching 8,831 career points. … The Rockets signed F James White to a 10-day contract on Tuesday. White had been playing with Anaheim in the NBA’s Developmental League. … Calderon also had 16 assists against Golden State in December.