By CLIFF BRUNT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers took advantage of Yao Ming's injury by going to the free-throw line at will against his much-smaller replacements.
Yao, the Houston Rockets' 7-foot-6 center, left Friday night's game because of a sore right knee and did not play after halftime. The Pacers made 26 free throws in the second half of their 107-102 victory.
Yao missed much of the second quarter while sitting on the bench with an ice pack on the knee. He returned later in the quarter, but couldn't go after being examined at halftime. Houston coach Rick Adelman said Yao's absence hurt because his backup, 7-2 Dikembe Mutombo, didn't match up well with the Pacers.
"It makes us small," Adelman said. "They (the Pacers) get to the basket. That's a tough team to play Dikembe against because they're so active."
Yao said he hurt the knee early in the first quarter. He said X-rays revealed no breaks.
"I'll see how I feel tomorrow," he said. "It was just a knee-to-knee hit ... I felt a little bit funny after the first play."
Houston already was missing Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest because of injuries. Artest missed his 13th game of the season because a bone bruise in his right ankle. McGrady sat out his 16th game with a sore left knee.
Luis Scola, who scored a career-high 25 points for the Rockets, said the injuries weren't an excuse for failing to play better in the second half.
"Those are three of our main guys, probably our three main guys," Scola said. "So it is tough, but that's the way it is. Injuries are part of the game. Everybody has them."
Indiana led 50-40 at halftime before holding the Rockets at bay with the free throws. Danny Granger scored 12 of his 25 points from the line, and T.J. Ford scored 13 of his 21 points on free throws.
Troy Murphy had 14 points and 16 rebounds for the Pacers, who snapped a two-game losing skid.
Carl Landry and Rafer Alston each scored 17 points for the Rockets, who had won three straight.
Houston cut Indiana's lead to 79-75 early in the fourth quarter on Aaron Brooks' basket, but the Pacers responded with a 7-2 run. Ford's 3-point play put the Pacers ahead 86-77.
Minutes later, Granger hit a 3-pointer with Landry in his face as the shot clock wound down to make it 91-81 midway through the period.
Scola scored on a baseline spin move and finger roll with 1:44 left and trimmed Indiana's lead to seven at 97-92 with 1:44 to play. Von Wafer's 3-pointer with 26 seconds left cut it to 99-97.
Scola fouled out on Indiana's next possession, and Jack took advantage by making two free throws with 25.5 seconds to play to push the Pacers' lead back to four.
Wafer tried to score again, but Granger stuffed his dunk attempt.
"He had a wide-open dunk and I pretty much met him up top," Granger said. "That was a big play considering the game was close."
Ford made two free throws at the other end.
Houston made one last effort. Shane Battier made a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left, but Ford made two more free throws with 4 seconds to play to end the threat.
Indiana forced 20 turnovers and held Houston to 39 percent shooting. Indiana shot just 43 percent, but outscored Houston 33-22 from the free-throw line.
"Basically, our defense won this game," Ford said. "It's probably the first time we shot that bad and actually won."
The Rockets expect to be competitive, even if they don't have their stars.
"When Yao went down, other guys had to step up, including myself," Landry said. "The whole season, we've been down with injuries. The reserves have been ready."
Murphy said the Pacers did well to take advantage of the situation, especially when Yao left the game.
"We game planned a lot for Yao, obviously, so in the first half our defense was geared toward him but we were able to make adjustments," Murphy said. "Scola hit us hard a little bit in the second half, but we were able to pull it out."
Landry, who played at nearby Purdue, entered the game in the final seconds of the first quarter and hit a baseline jumper with a second left to give the Rockets a 24-21 lead at the end of the period. ... Granger blocked two of Yao's shots in the first 2 minutes of the game. ... Adelman was issued a technical foul in the second quarter for arguing a foul call against Yao. Alston picked up a technical in the third quarter.