The National Basketball Association's Memphis Grizzlies beat the Houston Rockets, 86-77, Monday, spoiling the return of Chinese star Yao Ming, who had been out for more than a month due to a toe injury that required surgery.

In his first appearance in 22 games, Yao scored 21 points and had eight rebounds, but not enough to spare the Rockets their third straight loss. Chucky Atkins - the Grizzlies' top scorer, with 19 points - started for the first time since he joined Memphis from the Washington Wizards last week.

The San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan had 19 points and eight boards in the N.B.A. defending champions' 79-70 victory in Salt Lake City over the Utah Jazz. The Spurs have beaten the Jazz in 20 of their last 22 meetings.

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James poured in 30 points in a 103-91 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. The Cavs have won six in a row.

In other games, the Atlanta Hawks routed the New York Knicks, 120-101, the Miami Heat edged the Los Angeles Clippers, 118-114, and the Minnesota Timberwolves thumped the Boston Celtics, 110-85. In Seattle, the SuperSonics fell to the Portland Trail Blazers, 116-111.