Rookies Yao Ming and Juaquin Hawkins were too much for the Washington Wizards.
Yao scored 18 points and blocked three shots in his first NBA start and the 29-year-old Hawkins led a third-quarter spurt as the Houston Rockets defeated Washington, 93-86, Friday night.
"My confidence is growing," Yao said. "Of course, playing well has increased my confidence, but there's a lot of season left. I have been surprised, but it's only been 10 games. I've improved most on defense, learning the three-second rules and my timing is getting better."
Yao's seven attempts gave him enough shots to take the NBA field goal percentage lead. He is hitting 70.5 percent of his shots.
"I'm not saying he's dominating like Shaq," guard Steve Francis said. "But he's doing a good job of holding the middle. We did a good job of getting the ball inside and he made great decisions. He has been more assertive lately."
After trailing, 45-44, at the half, the Rockets outscored the Wizards, 31-16, in the third quarter, including a 17-2 run early in the period. Hawkins had 13 of his 14 points in the quarter.
"I'm trying to find my spots on the court," Hawkins said. "I'm not really a three-point specialist. I'm just trying to find my comfort zone. I don't feel like one (rookie). I'm 29. I may be a rookie but I've had a lot of experience playing overseas."
Hawkins, starting for injured guard Cuttino Mobley, had consecutive three-pointers to end the quarter as Houston took a 75-61 lead into the fourth.
Yao, who scored a career-high 30 points with 16 rebounds against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, was an immediate force in his first career start.
"He's getting better and better," said Michael Jordan, who scored eight points in 30 minutes. "I think his footwork is better than people thought. He's going to get even better as he gets used to playing in the NBA and this type of competition."
Steve Francis and Glen Rice each scored 16 points for the Rockets.
Jerry Stackhouse led the Wizards with 26 points and Larry Hughes had 22.
Shaq is back and Lakers win
LOS ANGELES -- Shaq came back, and the Lakers immediately got better.
Shaquille O'Neal had 17 points and seven rebounds in his season debut while playing 21 minutes of the Lakers' 86-73 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
O'Neal, coming back from September toe surgery, showed he could still make the big play, bringing a roar from the sellout crowd on a spectacular jump, catch and dunk off a lob by Rick Fox to give Los Angeles a 75-65 pad with 5:10 remaining.
Kobe Bryant scored 21 for Los Angeles, which ended a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in the last nine games.
The three-time NBA defending champions had struggled without O'Neal, stumbling to a 3-9 start and falling into the Pacific Division cellar.
Pacers hold down McGrady
INDIANAPOLIS -- Taking things one game at a time has worked so well for the Indiana Pacers that they're off to the best start in franchise history following nine consecutive victories.
"I haven't mentioned it one time. I just want to win every basketball game we play," coach Isiah Thomas said as the Pacers beat Orlando, 106-70, to improve to an Eastern Conference-leading 10-1.
Ron Artest had 15 points and held NBA scoring leader Tracy McGrady 20 points under his average as Indiana bettered the 9-1 start by the 1969-70 Pacers in the old American Basketball Association.
With Grant Hill missing his second game in a week because of a sore ankle, the Magic had four early turnovers and missed their first 11 shots before a basket by McGrady almost six minutes into the first quarter. By then, Indiana's lead was 10-2, and the Pacers were never threatened after that.
McGrady, who came in with a 33.2 average after scoring at least 30 in a team-record seven straight games. He had eight points in the first half and finished with 13 on 6-for-19 shooting.
Nets respond to ripping
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After ripping his New Jersey Nets, Byron Scott watched them do the same thing to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kenyon Martin had 21 points and 10 rebounds and the Nets, after being scolded by Scott, hit 14 of their first 15 shots in a 120-79 victory over Cleveland.
"We had a good meeting," said Jason Kidd, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the big first quarter in which the Nets shot 80 percent. "Coach expressed how he felt. We all knew we weren't playing our best basketball. Cleveland was the victim tonight."
The Nets had been the victim on Wednesday, being embarrassed in a loss to Boston.
After waiting two days, Scott ripped his team following their shootaround on Friday morning.
The energetic Nets responded by hitting 16 of 20 shots in the first quarter, including 12 in a row in one span.
"We need to do that all the time if we are going to win a championship," Scott said. "We can't wait until we get embarrassed and then respond. We have to understand that every team is going to try to beat us and if they do, it is just a notch on their belt."
Cleveland never had that chance, especially after the Nets missed only four shots in taking a 37-22 first-quarter lead. The margin grew to 21 in the second quarter and eventually as high as 44 as New Jersey sent Cleveland to its ninth straight loss.
"We happened to be just what the doctor ordered for the Nets to get their confidence back," coach John Lucas said. "They really came and played very well. We were very undermanned and we didn't play well."
Around the rim
Jamal Mashburn scored 25 points and Jamaal Magloire and P.J. Brown each scored 20 as the Hornets remained unbeaten in New Orleans with a 105-97 overtime win over the Knicks, despite 23 points by Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston. . . . Richard Hamilton scored 17 points and Ben Wallace pulled down a season-high 22 rebounds to help the Pistons rally past the Heat, 75-72. . . . Paul Pierce scored 36 points -- including four straight in the second overtime to give Boston the lead for good -- as the Celtics defeated the Hawks, 105-98. Boston's Antoine Walker had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 12th career triple-double. . . . Tim Duncan had 28 points and 15 rebounds as the Spurs beat the Grizzlies for the 21st straight time, a 95-86 victory that dropped Memphis' record to 0-13. . . . Allen Iverson scored 31 points and Keith Van Horn added 13 points and 10 rebounds, leading the 76ers to a 90-80 victory over the Raptors.