- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

OAKLAND, CALIF. (AP) - Dikembe Mutombo had 10 points and 15 rebounds, Luis Scola added a career-high 28 points and the Houston Rockets maintained their slim hold on the third seed in the Western Conference with a 113-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday.

Making a rare start after center Yao Ming was scratched from Houston’s lineup during pregame warmups because of lingering soreness in his right foot, the 42-year-old Mutombo blocked four shots and played a season-high 36 minutes while helping the Rockets complete a four-game season sweep of the Warriors.

Ron Artest added 19 points and six assists for Houston, which remained a half-game in front of Portland and San Antonio for the third seed in the Western Conference.

The Rockets (52-28), winners of four straight and nine of 12, close the regular season with a home game against New Orleans on Monday and at Dallas on Wednesday.

Kelenna Azubuike had 32 points and C.J. Watson and Ronny Turiaf added 18 apiece for Golden State (28-51), which overcame a 14-point deficit in the second half before falling short.

Anthony Morrow’s 3-pointer with 6.4 seconds remaining pulled the Warriors within 109-106, but Aaron Brooks made a pair of free throws to push Houston’s lead to five. Azubuike followed with another 3 for Golden State, but Brooks again answered with a pair of free throws to seal the win.

It was the 859th career victory for Rockets coach Rick Adelman, who needs six more to pass former Portland coach Jack Ramsay for 11th place on the NBA’s career list.

Yao played in Houston’s win over Sacramento on Thursday and took part in pregame warmups Friday but was held out after complaining of pain in his foot. Mutombo, who had played in only eight games this season before being pressed into duty against the Warriors, made sure the Rockets wouldn’t miss their All-Star center by coming up with the 471st double-double of his 17-year NBA career.

It’s Mutombo’s first double-double since March 19, 2008, when he had 10 points and 13 rebounds against the New Orleans Hornets. The 15 rebounds are also Mutombo’s most since March 2, 2007, when he grabbed 22 against Denver.

He had five points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in the first quarter, then added a third block in the second, wagging his right index finger each time. That was a big lift for Houston, which could ill afford a setback at this point of the season.

The Warriors, meanwhile, are literally limping to the end.

Point guard Jamal Crawford became the latest casualty when he was scratched from Golden State’s lineup after his lower back tightened up during warmups. That left coach Don Nelson only seven healthy players _ Marco Belinelli suited up but has a sore right ankle and did not play _ a common theme for the Warriors over the past few weeks.

With Crawford out, Watson ran Golden State’s offense fairly well but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the playoff-bound Rockets.

Houston led by as much as 14 in the third quarter before Golden State went on a 13-6 run to close within 86-79 heading into the final 12 minutes.

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