Tracy McGrady displayed it outwardly by shoving Collison in the chest and picking up a technical foul. Yao's reaction was outward too, but in a totally different and equally productive manner for Houston.
Yao scored 15 of his 31 points in the third quarter, and the Rockets ignored any distraction from a missing teammate to beat the Seattle SuperSonics 95-90 on Monday night and move into fourth place in the Western Conference standings.
The Rockets jumped past Utah, which lost at Golden State 126-102, and now hold a half-game lead on the Jazz.
"I think he got a little fired up," Shane Battier said of his 7-foot-6 teammate. "He responded well to that and went on a personal tear."
Collison's arm and shoulder tackle of Yao came midway through the third quarter and sent the lumbering center to the court. Immediately upset, McGrady confronted Collison, shoving Seattle's center as the team's exchanged heated words.
Damien Wilkins made the technical free throw to pull Seattle within 62-60. Yao then converted both of his attempts, the start of a 12-4 Houston run where Yao scored 10 of the 12 points.
His attitude toward the rugged foul was simple.
"Every time I catch the ball I tried to put it in the hole," Yao said. "That was my reaction."
McGrady scored 21 of his 27 points in the first half as Houston won its fourth straight road game and showed no outward affect from the unknown absence of backup guard Bonzi Wells, who didn't join the team for its morning walkthrough and wasn't at the arena Monday night. Before the game, coach Jeff Van Gundy said he hadn't talked to Wells and his concern was that Wells was OK.
Van Gundy didn't comment on Wells afterward.
"It's no different than if Tracy or Yao were hurt. You have to go with the guys who are here, guys that are in uniform," Battier said.
Yao was 11-for-11 at the free-throw line and added seven rebounds. Rafer Alston scored 16 for Houston, while McGrady added five rebounds and five assists.
Rashard Lewis led Seattle with 20, but Battier's physical defense flustered Seattle's main scoring option. Lewis shot just 6-for-24, missing four consecutive attempts in the fourth quarter when Seattle needed points. Most of those chances were contested by Battier.
This time it was Earl Watson who was hurt late in the first quarter after shooting a 3-pointer and landing on Dikembe Mutombo's foot. It was an eerie repeat of last Friday against the Lakers, when Luke Ridnour sprained his left ankle driving to the basket late in the first quarter. X-rays were negative on Watson's ankle.
"What could have happened, did," Seattle coach Bob Hill said. "I didn't think we could have any more injuries, but we did."
Hill said afterward the team intends on signing a point guard from the NBA Developmental League for the final four games.
Seattle had whittled away an 11-point deficit before Collison's foul, which McGrady felt was unnecessary. Yao had a pair of dunks and hit a 14-foot jumper during the stretch.
"In those situations you have to play with poise," Van Gundy said. "We made our free throws and I think we scored. That is the best way to respond."
Seattle made one final run, instigated by Lewis, who was largely responsible for Seattle's rally from down 20 at the start of the fourth quarter for a 106-103 win over Utah on Saturday.
Lewis scored twice to open the fourth, getting the Sonics back to 76-74. But Seattle then went cold, missing its next seven shots, and by the time Wilcox scored with 4:47 left, the Rockets held an 84-77 advantage.
"My body's banged up a little bit. But I think it's more frustrating than anything," Lewis said. "I'm just tired of losing."
- Hill said Ridnour had an MRI on his sprained left ankle, but results were not available. Ridnour is expected to be re-examined on Wednesday.
- Lewis moved past Shawn Kemp into fourth on Seattle's scoring list.
- Houston held its 25th opponent to less than 40 percent shooting.