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 Artest's 26 points lead Rockets past Bobcats 99-78

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PostSubject: Artest's 26 points lead Rockets past Bobcats 99-78   Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:26 pm

HOUSTON(AP) The Houston Rockets know who they
have - and won't have - for the rest of the season, so now they can
finally focus only on winning games.Ron Artest scored 26 points,
Yao Ming added 19 points and seven rebounds and the Rockets continued
to win without Tracy McGrady, beating the Charlotte Bobcats 99-78 on
Sunday.Luis Scola had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Shane
Battier sank three 3-pointers for the Rockets, who've won four straight
games and eight of the last nine McGrady has missed with a sore left
knee. McGrady announced Wednesday that he'll have season-ending
surgery, but Houston is 15-6 without him this season.Aaron
Brooks had seven points and three assists in his second game since
replacing Rafer Alston as Houston's starting point guard. Alston was
traded to Orlando on Thursday in a deal that brought Kyle Lowry to
Houston to back up Brooks."It's a good thing that we know - this
is who we have, this is who we are,'' Scola said. "Now, everybody can
take a role, whatever it is, and it's a good thing. I wish we could
have everybody healthy. But this is who we have now, and we have to
take it.''None of the Rockets will say they're a better team
without McGrady, a seven-time All-Star, but they've played well in his
absence by relying on effort and defense. Houston has held its last
four opponents under 90 points after losing 124-112 in Milwaukee,
McGrady's last game."We're kind of clicking,'' Scola said. "We
are getting better. We are playing better defense, we are fighting and
we are competing harder every day.''Raymond Felton, Boris Diaw
and Emeka Okafor scored 13 points apiece for the Bobcats, who shot 36
percent from the field and had more turnovers (21) than assists (15)
for the second straight game. Charlotte's 21 turnovers were one shy of
a season high."Our offense was awful,'' Bobcats coach Larry
Brown said. "We just turned it over so many times, that it puts so much
pressure on your defense.''The Bobcats shot 37.5 percent in a
92-80 loss to Orlando on Friday and missed 13 of their first 18 shots
Sunday. Brent Barry ended the first quarter with a 3-pointer off
Brooks' second assist to give Houston a 27-20 lead.Artest, a
full-time starter with McGrady sidelined, scored eight points in the
first quarter and hit two 3-pointers early in the second as Houston
extended its lead.The Rockets started 4-for-6 from 3-point
range, then missed seven of their next nine and Charlotte cut the
deficit to two. The Bobcats outrebounded Houston 25-19 in the first
half and trailed only 44-42 at the break.Yao scored six points
and assisted on Battier's layup early in the third quarter as the
Rockets rebuilt their lead. Battier sank two 3-pointers and Artest hit
another 3 during a 17-5 Houston spurt that put the Rockets up 71-55.The
Bobcats went 0-for-5 from the field with two turnovers in the final
five minutes of the third quarter. Von Wafer sank a 3-pointer and Barry
turned a steal into a breakaway layup early in the fourth to stretch
Houston's lead to 78-58."The first half, (it) seemed like we
were closing the gap,'' Okafor said. "They started hitting their shots
and we weren't hitting ours, and that's the way it goes sometimes.''The
Rockets struggled early in the season to put teams away after building
big leads. They've now won five of their last seven home games by
double digits."We are really focused, focused on 48 minutes, not
like before,'' Yao said. "Third quarter, OK, we come out ready to play.
And then the fourth quarter, we let them come back. That's happened too
much.''Yao left with 6:43 left, and the crowd roared as seldom-used Dikembe Mutombo trotted in to replace him.Notes:
The Rockets said McGrady is scheduled to meet with doctors Monday in
Chicago to discuss treatments for his knee. ... Houston F Carl Landry
missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... The
Bobcats have lost seven of their last eight road games. ... Charlotte
went 4-for-19 from 3-point range.

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