Playing without Steve Francis.
Here's to hoping we never have to do that again.
The Rockets and Spurs played seriously sloppy basketball for 3 quarters before Tim Duncan and the Spurs pulled away in the fourth, taking the 86-79 win in the Compaq Center.
The loss drops the Rockets record to 13-11. It's the 9th straight win for the Spurs over the Rockets.
Duncan scored 12 of his 25 points in the final frame -- he added 15 boards and 3 blocked shots to boot. Duncan: I wish we had one of those.
As for playing without Francis, yeah, it sucks... but Moochie Norris made us forget about him for a while. Mooch nailed 5 of his first 6 shots and finished with 17 points, 8 boards and 8 assists. Problem is Moochie had 14 at half... and had 6 turnovers, most of which resulted from fatigue from the Ironman, Francisesque minutes Rudy T had him running (45 minutes of PT).
Which makes Shandon Anderson's measly 18 minutes seem a little odd, don't you think?
Hakeem Olajuwon, who had to deal with both Duncan and David Robinson, came up large with 17 points, 13 boards (5 offensive), 4 assists and 3 blocks. He worked DRob like a Rent-a-center at times, even forcing Robinson to dish out a hard foul on Dream later in the game.
Though he had a lousy game, you can't fault Cuttino Mobley too much. Mobley, playing with a hyperextended elbow and was listed as questionable for the game against San Antonio, hit just 7-19 shots, finishing with 16 points.
Said Cat: "It felt terrible. It affected my game. I was forcing shots and it hurt every time I extended my elbow. I probably hurt us more than I helped us. Maybe I should have sat out like Steve did. We have got so many guys hurt. It seems like as soon as one gets well, another gets hurt."
Maurice Taylor was only able to log 25 minutes -- he hit 7-14 shots for 14 points and 6 boards in the limited action.
The Rockets shot just over 41% for the game, while the Spurs finished shooting over 45%... though it was the Spurs who shot something like 31 or 32% in the first half -- just something lower than dirt. Surprisingly, the Rockets managed just a 2-point edge at half (36-34).
It was just like old times early: Hakeem smoked David Robinson for 6 quick points and swatted Seaboy under the hoop on the other end as the Rockets took a 9-6 lead early.
Tim Duncan though was another story. After Duncan faked Hakeem up in the air and scored around him, then blocked Dream from behind on the other end, the Spurs trailed just 13-12.
After Moochie hit a three at the buzzer, the Rockets led 20-14 after one. Moochie had 10 points in the period and Dream 6.
The Rockets jumped out to a 26-19 lead after buckets by Cato and Bullard, but the Spurs ran off 6 straight after a layup by Malik Rose and a tip slam by Samaki Walker. The Rockets lost the lead afer Danny Ferry luckily banked a baseline three (you heard me correctly: baseline bank), making it 29-28 Spurs.
After an Antonio Daniels three the Spurs led 34-33 with under a minute to go in the half, but a technical free throw (off an illegal D) then a fast break slam by Mobley gave the Rockets a 36-34 edge at intermission.
The Rockets held the Spurs to 35.9% shooting in the first half, but the Rockets could do no better than 37.5% shooting -- translation: One ugly ass half of basketball.
Behind Mo Taylor the Rockets ran out on an 6-0 run to start the third, taking the 42-34 edge. But Derek Anderson got going, and the Rockets slipped into Cuttino Mobley isolation land. After a three by Derek, the Rockets led by just 2, 46-44.
Elliot and Duncan each scored before the end of the third, giving the Spurs a 56-53 edge heading in to the fourth.
Cuttino Mobley may have had 10 points at this point, but he was horrendous with the ball, having missed 10 of his 15 shots -- the Rockets had 16 turnovers at this stage.
Duncan got going to start the third, and before you knew it the Spurs led 64-57 -- but Kenny Thomas responded with a three then Hakeem a short bank in traffic, and the Rockets were within 2 at 64-62.
Spurs called timeout, and that was all she wrote for the Rockets as far as "momentum" was concerned.
The Spurs ran off 7 straight points, and a little later, after a Terry Porter three, the lead was 10 at 76-66.
After Duncan hit another jumper with just over 3 minutes to go, the Spurs enjoyed their biggest lead at 80-68, and what was all she wrote.