Much of the Houston Rockets' remarkable roll has come without Yao Ming. Now their upcoming opponents might have to see what they can do without an injured star.
The Lakers could be missing Pau Gasol when they come to Houston on Sunday for a showdown with the Rockets, who extended their winning streak to 21 games, second-longest in NBA history, with an 89-80 victory over Charlotte on Friday.
The Rockets tied the Lakers for the best record in the Western Conference after Los Angeles lost 108-98 in New Orleans. Gasol sprained his left ankle in the first quarter and needed help getting to the locker room. He was on crutches after the game, saying he didn't want to put any weight on it in hopes of keeping the swelling down.
``It swelled up pretty good. We'll know more tomorrow,'' Gasol said. ``We're going to make sure there's no damage to the ligaments, at least not too bad. I hate sitting out ... I want to be back as soon as I can.''
Boston visits Houston on Tuesday for a potential matchup of conference leaders and also could be short-handed. All-Star Ray Allen bruised his left heel at the end of the first quarter of the Celtics' 110-92 home loss to Utah and did not return. Coach Doc Rivers said Allen would make the trip for Saturday night's game against Milwaukee, but ``he's going to have to be extremely healthy for me to play him.''
In other games, it was: Orlando 103, Miami 94; Atlanta 117, the Los Angeles Clippers 93; Detroit 84, San Antonio 80; Philadelphia 110, Chicago 106; Dallas 116, Indiana 97; Denver 137, Toronto 105; and Minnesota 121, Seattle 116.
Losing a star hasn't hurt Houston. The Rockets are 9-0 since Yao's season-ending foot injury and broke a tie with the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks for the second-best victory streak in league history. Only the 1971-72 Lakers, who won 33 in a row, had a longer streak.
``This is pretty remarkable,'' Tracy McGrady said. ``I'll always remember this. I'm definitely cherishing this moment.''
The league's other double-digit win streak ended Friday. Deron Williams scored 32 points, 13 in the fourth quarter, as Utah snapped the Celtics' 10-game winning streak.
``I tried to take over a little bit,'' said Williams, who was icing his head afterward. ``It was time for me to assert myself a little more.''
The Celtics still clinched the Atlantic Division later Friday when Toronto lost to Denver.
Hornets 108, Lakers 98
At New Orleans, Chris Paul had 27 points and 17 assists for New Orleans, a half-game behind the Rockets and Lakers.
All-Star David West had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets, but limped off the floor with just under seven minutes remaining, having hurt his right ankle while still trying to play through a nagging left ankle sprain that kept him out for three games a week earlier.
Kobe Bryant had 36 points and nine assists for Los Angeles, which lost for only the third time in 17 games.
Pistons 84, Spurs 80
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Richard Hamilton scored 25 points, lifting Detroit over short-handed San Antonio.
The Spurs were without Bruce Bowen (suspension) and Ime Udoka (right ankle).
Tony Parker scored 26 and Tim Duncan had 20 points for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio's leading scorer, had nine points to fall well short of his 20-point average.
Magic 103, Heat 94
At Miami, Jameer Nelson scored 21 points, Dwight Howard added 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Orlando moved closer to clinching an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Magic swept the four-game series with their Sunshine State neighbors for the second straight season.
Jason Williams scored 34 points - the second-highest total of his career - for Miami, which was without coach Pat Riley, who is spending a few days on the road at college tournaments scouting potential draft picks.
Nuggets 137, Raptors 105
Allen Iverson scored 28 points despite a fractured finger, Carmelo Anthony added 22 and Denver won its fifth straight at home.
The Raptors were without star Chris Bosh, who missed his eighth straight game with a sore right knee. Toronto has now dropped three straight to start a five-game road trip.
Mavericks 116, Pacers 97
Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points and new backup point guard Tyronn Lue had 13 points in 15 minutes as Dallas won its fourth straight, all at home and all against the weakest teams in the weaker conference.
Flip Murray had a season-high 22 points, 20 in the second half, but Indiana lost for the fourth time in five games.
76ers 110, Bulls 106
At Chicago, Andre Iguodala scored 25 points and Rodney Carney had 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia rallied from an 18-point deficit.
Thabo Sefolosha added 20 points in a reserve role and Larry Hughes had 15 points, five assists and seven rebounds for the Bulls, who trail the New Jersey Nets by one game for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Hawks 117, Clippers 93
At Atlanta, Joe Johnson scored 21 of his 28 points in the third quarter and Mike Bibby handed out 14 assists for the Hawks, who stopped a two-game losing streak and won for just the second time in eight games.
Tim Thomas and rookie Al Thornton each scored 18 points for Los Angeles, which has dropped two straight and 10 of 12.
Timberwolves 121, SuperSonics 116
Ryan Gomes led seven Minnesota players in double figures with 23 points and 15 rebounds, and the Timberwolves won their third straight road game.
Kevin Durant scored 24 points and Jeff Green added 18, but the Sonics dropped their seventh straight, playing their first home game in nearly two weeks after a seven-game road swing.

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