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Rockets Finish off Trail Blazers

Posted: May 1, 2009, 12:28 AM ; Updated: May 1, 2009, 12:45 AM

Also see Kid Reporter Cedric Lewis: "More Playoff Disappointment for McGrady"

HOUSTON (AP) -- For the first time in 12 years, the Houston Rockets advanced in the NBA playoffs.

Ron Artest scored 27 points, Yao Ming had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Houston reached the second round for the first time since 1997, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 92-76 in Game 6 on Thursday night.

Aaron Brooks scored 13 points and Shane Batter tied a career playoff-high with nine rebounds as the Rockets won for the first time in their last seven first-round series. They lost Game 6s the last two seasons, both to Utah.

Houston put this one away with a big second quarter and moves on to play the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night at the Staples Center. The Lakers won all four meetings in the regular season.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and Brandon Roy had 22 for the Blazers, who were making their first playoff appearance since 2003. Portland improved 13 games from last season and reached its highest win total since 1999-00.

But the Blazers were the youngest team in the playoffs and their inexperience showed. They lost Game 1 in Portland, then dropped all three games in Houston, going out meekly in the finale.

The last three games of the series had been decided by a total of eight points, but the Rockets turned this one into a rout before halftime.

The Rockets led 21-19 heading to the second quarter, a key stat since the team leading after the first won the previous eight meetings.

Yao went out for his regular rest for the start of the second quarter and the Rockets took control with a 13-2 run. Reserve guard Von Wafer hit a 3-pointer and grabbed a rebound during the run, showing no effects of the back spasms that bothered him on Wednesday. He was cleared to play by team doctors Thursday, less than an hour before the game.

Roy drove for a layup with 6:26 left in the half, Portland's first basket in four minutes. Houston coach Rick Adelman immediately called a timeout to get Yao back in the game and Yao flipped in a hook shot a minute later for a 38-23 lead.

The Rockets led 52-37 at halftime after shooting 50 percent (11 of 22) in the second quarter and holding the Blazers to 37 percent shooting (7 for 19).

The Blazers cut the lead to 13 early in the fourth quarter, but Yao muscled in a layup and Brooks hit a 3-pointer to make it 81-63. Brooks drove for a layup with 2:45 left to put Houston ahead 87-67, prompting the ''Beat L.A.'' chant from the raucous capacity crowd.

With under two minutes left, Artest chased a loose ball into the seats and was mobbed by ecstatic fans for several seconds. He emerged with a smile, quite different from his infamous foray into the stands in Detroit early in the 2004-05 season.

Yao embraced forward Brian Cook and Ron Artest walked to the Portland bench to shake hands with Blazers coach Nate McMillan as the final seconds ticked off.

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