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YAO WOWS CROWD BUT MAVS ROLL ON

Yao Ming flipped in a short basket and turned it into a three-point play. Then he blocked a shot, came back downcourt and turned a rebound into a layup. His next time on offense he grabbed a rebound, was fouled hard and nailed two free throws.

In his first 103 seconds Thursday night, Yao showed why he was the first pick of the draft and why the Houston Rockets are so excited about his future. Then came the fourth quarter, when he reminded everyone how far he still has to go.

Yao played nine minutes in the final period, but scored just one point and failed to take a shot as the Rockets lost to the Dallas Mavericks, 103-90.

While Dallas improved to 12-0, matching the fourth-best start in NBA history and setting a franchise record for consecutive wins, the sellout crowd at American Airlines Center and the national television audience went away talking about the 7-foot-6 center from China.

"A lot of people are now aware of what he can do," teammate Steve Francis said.

Yao set highs with 30 points, 16 rebounds and 33 minutes. His previous bests were 20 points, seven rebounds and 24 minutes. He was 10-of-12 from the field, making him 31 of his last 35, and 10-of-12 on free throws.

"From a technical standpoint, I felt very good," he said.

"We always thought he was going to be a good player, but not for a couple more years," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "He's got the whole package. He is some factor."

But he's still learning. Yao had 21 points and seven rebounds in 15 first-half minutes. Then Dallas mixed things up, fatigue set in and Yao wore out.

"I have to build up my endurance," Yao said.

Yao was glad to play Dallas' 7-6 Shawn Bradley.

"I don't get many chances to play against a player as tall as me, so I was very excited," Yao said. "I know I'm not the skinniest player in the NBA."

Dallas broke the 62-all tie with an 11-0 run. Michael Finley led Dallas with a season-high 28 points, including six 3-pointers, and Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points and nine rebounds.

The Mavs' next goal is matching Boston's 14-0 start in 1957-58, then the record of 15-0 set by Washington in 1948-49 and matched by Houston in 1993-94. Dallas next plays Saturday night at home against Seattle.

Around the rim

Bonzi Wells scored 16 points, and the Trail Blazers took the lead for good with a 14-1 run to close the third quarter on their way to an 89-85 victory over the SuperSonics. Rasheed Wallace added 13 points for Portland and Gary Payton had 22 points for Seattle.

Shaquille O'Neal could make his season debut tonight, but if he plays he probably won't start the Lakers' home game against the Chicago Bulls. O'Neal received a shoe support from his doctor Thursday to ease the pressure on his arthritic right foot, and he wore the device at practice.