No Yao, no problem for Rockets

HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets never doubted they could still beat the Los Angeles Lakers without Yao Ming.

The Lakers better believe it, too.

Aaron Brooks scored a career-high 34 points, Shane Battier sank five 3-pointers and added 23, and the Rockets beat the Lakers 99-87 on Sunday to even their Western Conference semifinal at two games apiece.

Luis Scola had 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Rockets got exactly the team effort they needed after Yao broke his left foot in the Lakers' win in Game 3.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and anyone who thought the Rockets were finished without their best player only needed to watch the first quarter Sunday, when Houston built a 29-16 lead.

The Rockets never trailed and led by as many as 29 before the Lakers made the score respectable toward the end.

"I'm not surprised," Battier said. "It almost sounds cliche, but we're a resilient group. We talk about bouncing back. Through adversity, through lineup changes, through trades, through injuries, we've never quit and we've never stopped believing."

Pau Gasol scored 30 points and Kobe Bryant had a quiet 15 for Los Angeles.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson warned his team about taking the Rockets too lightly after hearing about Yao's injury. But the Lakers looked lethargic from the start, giving away careless turnovers and playing lax defense.

"They didn't anticipate the energy that they were going to come with," Jackson said. "But you say as much as you can as a coach and then the players have to execute and do it on the floor."

The Rockets opened the game with a 22-7 run, starting 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Bryant scored the Lakers' first three baskets, but the rest of the team missed its first seven shots.

Houston led 54-36 at the break. The Lakers grabbed only two offensive rebounds and generated only four fast-break points in their lowest-scoring half of the season. Battier had 15 points at halftime, two more than Bryant.

"I just don't think we started the game with the right energy or the right focus or sense of urgency," Bryant said.

The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 29-18 in the decisive third quarter, led by Brooks' 17 points. To make matters worse for the Lakers, Lamar Odom drove into Battier and went down hard. He limped to the locker room with back spasms and did not return. He'll have tests Monday and said he'll sit out practice.

Celtics 95, Magic 94

At Orlando, the defending champions aren't giving up their crown easily.

Glen Davis made a 21-foot jumper as time expired to help the Boston Celtics hold off a furious rally and defeat the Orlando Magic on Sunday night to even their Eastern Conference semifinal at two games apiece.

Davis took the pass on the wing from Paul Pierce, swished the jumper over a charging Rashard Lewis and ran to half-court, where he was mobbed by teammates, leaving the Orlando home crowd silenced.

Davis' jumper followed a pair of free throws by Lewis that put the Magic ahead with 11.3 seconds to play. Davis also hit a 15-foot jumper in the final minute and finished with 21 points.

Dwight Howard had 23 points and 17 rebounds, and Lewis scored 22 for the Magic. Game 5 is Tuesday in Boston.

The Celtics went ahead by nine points with about 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Pierce. Boston's All-Star forward had 27 points, but would battle foul trouble the rest of the way, helping Orlando trim the lead slowly.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had cautioned his team about feeling satisfied with its Game 3 victory, even reminding players with a message at the team's practice facility that they were in the same position Philadelphia was in their first-round series. The 76ers went up 2-1, then lost in six games.

But it was Boston that went right at Orlando from the start.

The aggressive play caused Howard to pick up his second foul about halfway through the opening period, with the Celtics already taking a five-point lead. The Magic would withstand an early push by Boston and then go on a 9-2 run to end the quarter ahead 28-25 without Howard.

But neither team would get out to a big lead as they did in the first three games of the series.

An ugly, first-half foul fest with 29 personals called saw 13 lead changes. That's 13 more than the last two games combined, with Boston and Orlando going start to finish without losing the lead in the previous contests.

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