HOUSTON – With Yao Ming out, the Houston Rockets had no chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers. Right?
Aaron Brooks scored a career-high 34, 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.
“I think everyone but us got the memo that we weren’t supposed to show up today without Yao,” Battier said.
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 on 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,” said Battier.
“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.”
Brooks, in his second NBA season, became Houston’s starting point guard when the team dealt Rafer Alston to Orlando at the trade deadline.
He faced countless questions about his inexperience before the postseason began, but keeps showing skeptics that he can handle the job.
He scored 27 points in Houston’s Game 1 win in Portland and had 14 points in the second half of the Rockets’ 100-92 victory in the opener of this series.
Brooks deflected credit to his teammates after this one.
“I’m lucky to have these guys,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier on me.”
Pau Gasol scored 30 points and Kobe Bryant had a quiet 15 for Los Angeles.