It was a matchup problem he figured would give him fits the entire night.
The disadvantage simply made him uncomfortable entering Monday's game, which pitted Yao Ming, the
league's tallest center at 7-6, against the shortest in 6-8 Udonis Haslem.
Surprisingly, it wasn't Haslem, the Heat's undersized starting center, who felt worried before the game.
"I just don't have speed to match up with him,'' Yao said. "It's a huge advantage. He's really going to try to run me,
and just put a body on me.''
Yao had little about which to worry - literally. On a night when size surpassed speed and girth beat out grit, the
Rockets defeated the Heat 107-98 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Yao finished two points off his season high, with 28 points and 12 rebounds, as the Rockets (10-5) swept a three-
game East trip. Houston has won four of its past five games even as it continues to get little production from
Tracy McGrady, who is nursing a sore knee and finished with only six points.
It also was a tough night offensively for Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who began the game by missing a dunk in
transition and ended it by clanking a jumper off the side of the backboard.
On the day he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Wade scored 23 points but was only 7 of 23
from the field. The Rockets held the Heat to two field goals in the game's final four minutes.
Mario Chalmers had a season-high 23 points, Shawn Marion scored 17 and Michael Beasley added 14 for the Heat
(7-7), which has alternate wins and losses in its past 10 games.
Ron Artest finished with 20 points for the Rockets, who got 14 points from former Heat point guard Rafer Alston
and 11 points apiece from Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks.
It was another typical slow start for the Heat, which continued the disturbing trend against the Rockets.
For the second consecutive game - and for the third time in five games - the Heat got off to a slow start against an
opponent that had its way early. The Rockets led 30-21 after they established an inside-outside game that left
the Heat scrambling.
The Rockets shot 71.4 percent from three-point range,
with Artest, McGrady and
Brent Barry each connecting
from beyond the arc. The
Heat missed 12 of its first 20
field goal attempts and was
outrebounded 16-9 in the first
quarter. And that was before
Yao really got going.
Then came the third quarter, when the Rockets
pounded the ball inside to
Yao on nearly every possession. It resulted in a 13-point
quarter for Yao and a frustrating period for the Heat.
Haslem was assessed a
technical foul with 5:49 left in
the third. He argued a foul
called against him as he
defended Yao, who converted
the layup and free throw. Yao
made the ensuing free throw
on the technical to make it a
four-point possession, one
that put Houston ahead 69-56.
Spoelstra was assessed his
first technical foul later in the
quarter when he disputed an
offensive foul called against
Wade. But Miami regained its
composure, increased its
defensive pressure and closed
to within 80-75 after three
The Heat climbed out of a
similar hole to beat Indiana
on Saturday. Miami trailed by
17 points in Wednesday's loss
to Toronto before it rallied to
make it close at the end.
Slow starts have become a
poor habit Wade said the
team must break.
"That comes with the team
growing, understanding we're
making it hard on ourselves
by having to do that push so
often early in the season,''
Wade said. "As guys understand each other more, understand what it takes to win,
we'll take the next step and
that will change.''
Yao represented the first in
what will be a week of tall
challenges for the Heat,
which leaves Tuesday for a
five-game Western Conference trip.
The Heat will face Greg
Oden in Portland on Wednesday, Shaquille O'Neal in
Phoenix on Friday and Los
Angeles Clippers big men
Marcus Camby and Chris