|Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (11), of China,
shoots over Sacramento Kings center Greg Ostertag (00) in the first
half Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004, in Houston.
Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady needed someone, anyone
to give them a little help in the Houston Rockets' shootout with the
Charlie Ward came through just in time.
Ward made two 3-pointers in overtime, Yao scored 33 points, and the
Rockets rallied late for a thrilling 104-101 win over the Kings in their
home opener on Saturday night.
"Yao and Tracy were playing a great game and doing their job and I let
them down on a few of the shots," Ward said. "I'm just grateful I had the
opportunity to redeem them."
Ward finished with 14 points, going 4-of-11 from behind the arc.
McGrady added 23 points in his Houston debut, giving Rockets fans their
first glimpse of the inside-outside combination that many believe could
replace former Los Angeles Lakers teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe
Bryant as the NBA's most dominant duo.
Yao scored 16 points after the third quarter, making nearly all the key
shots down the stretch to help the Rockets hold off Sacramento. He converted only 2 of
6 free throws in the final minute, however, keeping things interesting
even as the Kings went cold in overtime.
Chris Webber missed a couple of layups, Mike Bibby clanged a 28-foot jumper,
and Bobby Jackson came up short on a tip under the basket that Yao
rebounded to seal the Rockets' win.
Yao "was just imposing his will on those guys," McGrady said.
Bibby led the Kings with 31 points and seven assists, but it wasn't
enough to keep them from going winless during their season-opening,
three-game swing through Texas. Peja Stojakovic added 23 points, and
Webber had 20.
Bibby and Brad Miller opened overtime with a couple of quick scores,
but Yao made a basket to cut the Kings' lead to 2. Ward then nailed
back-to-back 3s to give Houston its first lead since midway through the
second quarter, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
"Their two main guys got it going and we couldn't do anything to win,"
Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "We just have to do something to get a
Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and San Antonio's Tim Duncan each had 30 points
against Sacramento in the Kings' first two games.
Yao did that and a little more on Saturday, even as he deferred to
McGrady was the last starter introduced during pregame introductions
instead of Yao, who usually gets the honor. The sellout crowd of 18,003
responded with its loudest cheers, and a rocket was set off as McGrady
skipped onto the court.
However, McGrady and Yao were just barely the best combo at the Toyota Center on