Rockets Run Out of Gas

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - In the end, the Houston Rockets had too much to overcome.

Missing two All-Stars and facing the top-seeded team in the Western Conference on the road, the Rockets couldn't compete in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Houston misfired on its first 12 shots, fell behind by 25 points late in the first half and ended the season with an 89-70 loss to the defending Western Conference champions.

The Rockets, who advanced to the second round for the first time in 12 years, have lost to the Lakers in each of their last six playoff series since Ralph Sampson's buzzer-beater knocked Los Angeles out of the Western Conference semifinals in 1986 at the Inglewood Forum.

At no point did this decisive game appear headed for a close finish, but the Houston made the mighty Lakers work much harder than most would have expected to advance to the conference finals again.

The Rockets had gotten used to playing without Tracy McGrady, who has been sidelined since February after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee. In the first round backup center Dikembe Mutombo went down with a knee injury. Then star center Yao Ming was lost in Game against Los Angeles to a broken left foot.

Still, the Rockets won two games after losing Ming and had many Lakers fans wondering what was wrong with their team.

Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks, whose ability to penetrate the Lakers' defense time again during Game 6 at Houston, missed all four of his field goal attempts in the opening quarter and finished the first half 1-for-6 with five points and one assist. He ended up with a team-high 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting in 39 minutes.

Ron Artest didn't distinguish himself, either, missing seven of 10 shots in 39 minutes and finishing with seven points in his personal duel with Bryant (14 points, 4-for-12)

Luis Scola (11 points) could not repeat his sensational Game 6 in which he had 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Rockets' high-point man in the first half was former Lakers castoff Von Wafer, who had eight points while the team shot a collective 32.5 percent and trailed 51-31 at intermission. They were 36.8 percent from the field overall and committed 16 turnovers.

The Rockets lost all four regular-season meetings with the Lakers and finished the regular season 53-29, one game behind Southwest Division champion San Antonio.