You have to give the Rockets credit: They're showing a lot of heart to get back into these games.
Kenny Thomas nailed a huge three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but from there the Jazz got a little help from the refs and cruised to the 116-104 win in the Delta Center.
The loss is the second straight for the Rockets and drops their record to 18-19.
It was a game they had no business forcing to OT. Karl Malone missed two free throws with 14.6 seconds left, giving the Rockets a second chance to tie down 3. Steve Francis found KT who did just that.
But Malone, who finished with 29 points, 10 boards and 9 assists, was too strong. If there was ever a game where the Rockets could have used Hakeem Olajuwon or Kelvin Cato (injured yet again) in the paint, this was it. Malone seemed to get layup after layup inside and fouled out both KT and Maurice Taylor (15 points, 6 boards) in the process.
However, the Rockets would have pulled it out if not for the monstrous showing (again) of super scrub Donyell Marshall. How do you justify this stiff going off for 26 points and 21 boards? It's blasphemy. He killed the Rockets on the offensive glass, grabbing 7 of the Jazz' 17 offensive rebounds.
The Rockets as a team had 8.
It blew a great showing from Shandon Anderson, who faced the Jazz crowd that booed him on every posession. Shandon nailed 9-15 for 26 points and 6 boards, but unfortunately his free throws woes (5-9 from the line) proved costly.
Francis and Cuttino Mobley both had a hard time putting the ball in the hole. Francis (21 points, 7 boards) could hit just 5-14 before fouling out early in overtime while Mobley (15 points) managed just 6-17. In fact Mobley in his last 3 games has made just 16 of 50 shots.
Matt Bullard added 11 off the bench and Moochie Norris 7.
Mo Taylor had it going on early. He drained 5-7 shots and the Rockets took a 12-7 lead early. After Steve Francis about broke John Stockton's ankles then made a gorgeous double pump layup under Donyell Marshall, the Rockets were up 16-9 and the Jazz were forced to call a TO.
The Rockets played terrific defense, forcing Utah to shoot 33% from the field, but they got sloppy near the end of the first. A 6-0 Jazz run closed the period at 18-17 Rockets.
The Jazz took the lead early in the second, but after a Shandon Anderson three the Rockets led 23-21.
One bad play illustrated the Rockets poor rebounding this season. After Dan Langhi got floored after having his shot blocked, the Jazz ran and missed 3 times on layups, getting the offensive board each time before making it the 4th time, giving Utah a 26-25 edge.
Still, after Francis blew by Stockton again for a deuce, then nailed a three, the Rockets were tied with the Jazz at 30.
The last few minutes of the half was "Anything you can do I can do just as good". When Shandon Anderson hit a three, Stockton immediately responded with a three. Bullard countered that with another three, making it 40-37 Rockets, but Donyell Marshall (I mean good heavens) nailed a three to tie it back up.
Francis nailed a pair of free throws with 4.2 seconds left to give Houston a 42-40 edge, but the Jazz found Qunciy Lewis all alone under the bucket for a deuce with 0.2 seconds left and at halftime: 42 all.
Francis led all scorers with 11 while Shandon and Mo each had 10 (though Mo's 10 came in the first 5 minutes of the game). Disgustingly, Donyell Marshall had 10 points and 12 boards for the Jazz while Karl Malone had 9, but hit just 4-11 from the floor.
Mo Taylor opened the third with a jumper, but the Jazz responded with 6 straight points, forcing Rudy T to stop the action down 48-44.
From there the Rockets busted out on a 9-2 run... after Shandon slammed on a fast break and Mobley nailed a jumper, the Rockets led 51-50 with 7:32 to go in the third.
The Jazz took the momentum then. After Donyell Marshall hit a running bank prayer, the Jazz led 60-55. Two Danny Manning free throws made it 64-58 Jazz -- Shandon Anderson followed that up by cleaning up a Walt Williams three-miss, making it and getting fouled, but he missed the free throw.
The Jazz led 66-62 through three.
Francis made a gorgeous play, picking the Jazz on offensive boards twice and finally slammig it home with Stockton looking on, making it 68-66 Jazz.
But the Rockets got caught with Walt guarding Malone, who scored easily. After Walt, who was having a dismal game, missed a jumper, Malone scored again and Rudy was forced to use a timeout, down 74-68.
After Bullard hit two free throws the Rockets were within 80-78, and after Shandon nailed a three it was 82-81 Jazz with 6:00 left. After Manning missed a pair of freebies, Mo Taylor swooped around for a left-handed layin, the Rockets regained the lead at 83-82.
It was short-lived. John Starks capped a 6-1 run with a drive to make it 88-84. Mobley scored on a drive but Malone hit a turnaround in the paint over Bullard and the Rockets called timeout once more, down 90-86 with 2:52 left.
Mobley drove the lane and scored and after a Donyell layup, he nailed an 18-footer and the Rockets were within 2. Shandon Anderson grabbed an offensive board off a missed Bullard three and put it back in, giving him 26 points and tying the game at 92.
But John Starks nailed a killer, a baseline three with 1:18 left, to put Utah up 95-92.
Mobley missed a jumper and Mo Taylor fouled out of the game on the board attempt. Jazz went up 97-92. Francis nailed an amazing reverse left-handed layin with 46 seconds left to make it 97-94. The Rockets forced a Malone miss and Francis blew by his man and left a layin just short on the rim with 14 seconds left.
Malone got the rebound and Francis immediately fouled him. But Malone missed both free throws. Rocket timeout, 14 seconds left.
Francis took the inbound, went straight on Stockton and drove... Malone converged on Francis in the paint and Steve fired to Kenny Thomas on the left win baseline for three.
97 all, 5 seconds left in the game.
Utah found Stockton who drove but missed a tough layup on the left side... the ball bounced around and time expired. Overtime.
The Rockets got off on a bad foot in OT. Malone scored on a typical layup, then Danny Manning hit a 17-footer and the Rockets called timeout, down 101-97 with 4:18 left.
Then it all went to hell. A ridiculous foul call put Manning at the line for 2 free throws, then Malone tipped in a questionable ball that could have been offensive goaltending. Then Francis fouled out on a poor call and picked up a technical for arguing it.
Rockets had no chance.