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Yao doubles up again to ruin Magic's day

The Magic's weak interior defense didn't stand a chance against Yao Ming.

Houston's center continued his recent stellar play by scoring 21 of his career-high 37 points in the third quarter Sunday, leading the Rockets over Orlando 99-87.

"Our goal is to play effective basketball and not to break records," said Yao, whose high was 30. "Of course, if I can score more points I will try to score more points."

Houston has won six of its past seven and Yao, with 10 rebounds against Orlando, had double doubles in all the victories. In his past seven games, Yao is averaging 22.9 points and 11.3 rebounds.

Orlando is challenged inside even against average players, and the 7-foot-6, 310-pound Yao is better than average. Also, Magic coach Johnny Davis decided against double-teaming unless Yao was dribbling while backing down a defender.

That put Orlando center Andrew DeClercq, 8 inches shorter and 55 pounds lighter, in a very lonely place.

"I told Andrew, "Hold your ground as best you can,' " Davis said. "We were going to give him help on the dribble, but it didn't get there the way it should have."

As Yao was making a career-high 15 field goals in 23 attempts, DeClercq was knocked to the floor twice and bulled out of the way another time. DeClercq, a former Countryside High and Florida standout, more often than not got a hand in Yao's face on his jumpers, but to little effect.

Yao scored 15 consecutive points in the third. His two free throws at the 2:27 mark of the quarter broke his career best, set Nov. 21, 2002, at Dallas.

Still, Houston led by just seven entering the fourth quarter after Tracy McGrady scored 14 of his 31 points in the third.

"Yeah, I had the hot streak," McGrady said. "But it didn't matter because they were coming down and Yao was doing the same thing."

Orlando guard Keith Bogans sat out the second half after bruising his right leg in a second-quarter collision with Yao.

Also, the Magic activated rookie guard Reece Gaines from the injured list. He had been out since Dec. 5 with right knee patella tendinitis, missing 26 games.

NETS 110, CELTICS 91: Richard Jefferson scored 25 and New Jersey ended its longest losing streak since Jason Kidd joined the team more than two years ago at five games. Also, about 30 people protested outside the team's home, Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, about the proposed sale and move of the Nets to Brooklyn. The protest came two days after the owners agreed to sell the franchise to Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner for $300-million.

CAVALIERS: Rookie LeBron James practiced for the first time since spraining his right ankle and said he might play tonight in Cleveland against Orlando. James has missed three games since getting hurt Jan. 17 against Utah.

JAZZ: Center Paul Grant, who averages 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds, was waived.

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