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Yao leads Rockets over Kings in NBA's China debut
Updated: 2004-10-15 08:52

Yao Ming scored 14 points to lead the Houston Rockets past the Sacramento Kings 88-86 in the NBA's first China Game at the Shanghai Stadium Thursday evening.

Playing at his hometown for the first time since joining the Houston Rockets in the 2002-2003 season, Yao seemed to be a bit nervous before a capacity crowd of more than 10,000. But the 2.26-meter center soon found his rhythm and scored his first basket four and a half minutes into the game as he dunked on Tracy McGrady's assist.

Yao Ming (R) of Houston Rockets prepares to shoot as Adam Parada of Sacramento Kings guards. Chinese basketball superstar Yao made his hometown fans proud as the Rockets centre led his team to a close-fought win over the Kings in a much-hyped NBA exhibition game. [AFP]

Yao added seven rebounds and one block in 27 minutes and watched the final quarter on the bench.

"I did not play very well today," said Yao Ming after the match. "I was nervous at the beginning and felt like playing my first NBA game."

"I gradully calmed down as the game went on, but it ended very soon," he added. "I am looking forward to play the next China Game in Beijing." McGrady added 12 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes for the Rockets.

Yao accomplished his new teammate, who was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Rockets this summer. "Tracy is a great player, " Yao said. "He has great abilities and is hard to defend, which brings us a lot of opportunities."

Liu Wei, Yao's former teammate at the Shanghai Sharks, had two points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 19 minutes for the Kings at the first "Shanghai derby" in NBA pre-season games.

Having being invited to train with the Kings, Liu, who won the CBA League championship with Yao Ming in 2002, is striking to be the first Asian guard to play in the NBA.

"I think Liu did a very good job," Yao said. "he showed his abilities."

"When we were both on the court, I just kept reminding myself not to pass the ball to him out of habit."

Reece Gaines made two free throws 34 seconds from the end to give the Rockets an 87-84 lead. Darius Songaila answered with two from the line to cut it to 87-86.

Tyronn Lue missed one of his two free throws 0.4 seconds later, but Juwan Howard blocked Songaila as the time went out to seal the victory for the Rockets.

Brad Miller scored a game-high 19 points with Mike Bibby and Chris Webber adding 17 and 14 respectively.

The Kings, 4-0 winners over Rockets in the 2003-2004 regular season, started strongly by racing to a 24-11 lead in the first quarter. The Rockets fought back early in the second as the Kings rested their starters to overtake the lead at 43-39. The third quarter was hotly contested with the Kings entering the fourth 72- 67 up.

The NBA's first China games, the second of which will be played in Beijing on Sunday, have attracted great interest around the world. The games will be televised in 176 countries and regions, according to NBA officials.

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