Not All About McGrady

In his five full seasons in the NBA, Yao Ming has emerged as one of the league's best big men while helping the Houston Rockets become a legitimate title contender. Yi Jianlian, Yao's 6-foot-11 teammate on the Chinese national team, is hoping to do the same with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The countrymen meet in the NBA for the first time on Friday when the Rockets host the Bucks in the most highly anticipated matchup between two Chinese players in league history.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Houston -9 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 189 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston –9 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

After the Rockets selected him with the first overall pick in the 2002 draft, Yao became the third Chinese player to play in the NBA when he made his debut on Oct. 30, 2002. Yi, the sixth overall pick in June's draft, is the first to arrive since Yao's debut.

Together, Yao and Yi are the most prominent Chinese players to square off in the NBA since Wang Zhizhi became the first Chinese player to play in the league in April 2001.

Yi went 4-for-5 from the field in his debut Oct. 31, but fouled out after scoring nine points with three rebounds and two blocked shots in 25 minutes of Milwaukee's loss at Orlando. After a forgettable second game in another road defeat for the Bucks, however, Yi has averaged 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in his last two contests - both victories in Milwaukee.

"The first time I saw him, in 2004, for Olympic training camp, I know one day he would play here," Yao said. "He has huge talent. Already, he's shown some part of it, in his first four games."

Yi had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists as the Bucks (2-2) beat Toronto 112-85 on Tuesday night. Desmond Mason led six Milwaukee players in double figures with 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting. Overall, the Bucks shot 60.3 percent from the field for just their second game over 60 percent since the 2001-02 season.

"I got fouled on two of them and still made them," Mason said. "Those were some lucky ones."

Yi's inconsistent start is no surprise as he's still adjusting to the NBA game. Yao, a five-time All-Star, encountered similar struggles in his first four games in the league, averaging just 2.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.3 blocked shots while shooting 33.3 percent in 15.8 minutes.

"He's going through it in a different place," Yao said. "I don't know much about Milwaukee, I can't tell him too much. I don't want to give him too many pressures, or the wrong messages. Different people get different experiences."

This season, Yao has recorded a double-double in four of five contests while averaging 21.2 points and 11.0 rebounds overall. He had 28 points, 13 rebounds and six assists as Houston (4-1) dealt defending champion San Antonio its first loss of the season on Tuesday.

Thanks in part to Yao's eight offensive rebounds, the Rockets had a 25-4 edge in the category in their 89-81 victory.

"That's about how hungry we were to win the game," Yao said.

Tuesday's game was Yao's best of the young season, his first under new Rockets coach Rick Adelman. Yao has sometimes struggled to keep up with Houston's faster-paced offense, but he's learning to adjust.

"I don't have time to think about (fatigue)," Yao said. "I'm just telling myself, pick up my leg and run to the next step."

The Rockets have swept each of the last two season series against the Bucks and have won five straight against them overall. Milwaukee has lost seven in a row in Houston since a 98-93 win on Nov. 2, 1999, and has dropped 23 of 26 away from home overall dating to last season.

In two games against the Bucks last season, Yao averaged 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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