Perhaps Steve Francis didn't like Cuttino Mobley getting so close to his team lead in scoring.
Francis, averaging 19.5 points per game, exploded for 35 points Saturday night -- one under his career-high, to lead the Rockets to the 92-80 win over the Cavs in the Compaq Center.
The win ups the Rockets mark to 27-26. They have won 5 of their last 6 games.
Francis exploded for 17 of his 35 in the critical fourth quarter when the Rockets pulled away from the Cavs. He nailed 6-11 from three-point land, tying a career-high for threes (he was 6-11 last season on March 7, 2000 in a 108-101 loss to the Suns), and also added 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals.
Monstrous game for Stevie Wonder. If he gets 26 points against Boston on Tuesday, he'll be averaging 20 points per contest.
Mobley, who also was averaging 19.5 points per game going in, played a great second fiddle, scoring 26 points on 9-19 from the field and grabbing 5 boards.
Hakeem Olajuwon added 9 points and 10 boards, but missed 6 of his last 7 shots after making 3 of his first 4. He also kicked in 2 steald and a block in 31 minutes. It was great to see Kelvin Cato back him up with a decent outing. Cato, trying to get back in to game shape, grabbed 6 boards -- 2 offensive -- and blocked a shot in 15 minutes of action.
Though I swear the boy bit on every fake Chris Gatling threw up there.
Maurice Taylor scored 8 points, but again played very few minutes (17) because he was plagued by foul trouble. Kenny Thomas had a hard time putting the ball in the hole, making just 2-10 shots, as did Moochie Norris (6 points, 1-6 shooting).
Shandon Anderson (0-2) and Dan Langhi (0-4 in 7 minutes -- including a nasty airball) got shutout from the floor.
In fact, despite the sizely win, the Rockets (38.6%) were outshot by the Cavs (40.5%). But three-pointers (9-21 from long range for the Rockets) and rebounds (45-35 advantage) helped give the Rocks the edge.
Andre Miller led the Cavs with 29 points. Gatling added 11 points and 7 boards.
Maurice Taylor got the Rockets off to a fast start, hitting back-to-back field goals to start the game, and after Mo found Hakeem underneath for two, the Cavs had no choice but to call timeout -- Rockets 10, Cavs 2.
GORGEOUS play in the first quarter: Cedric Henderson tried to drive by Hakeem. Olajuwon just stood there about 10-feet out on the baseline and as if it was scripted, he whiped his right hand around and picked the ball clean while Henderson kept going towards the basket. Dream passed it to Mobley who threw an alleyoop on the break to Francis, who outjumped his defender and slammed it home. 14-8 Rockets.
The Cavs, behind Chris Mihm's 8 points in the period, hung tough, cutting the Rockets lead to 1 before a Francis triple made it 24-20 Rockets with 2:37 left.
The Rockets closed the period on a 9-2 run, leading 34-26 after one. Mobley had 10, Francis 9 and Dream 7. Andre Miller led the Cavs with 10.
Steve picked up his second foul and sat early in the second quarter. The bench came in and this time that meant Kenny Thomas, Moochie Norris, Kelvin Cato and Dan Langhi. Langhi tossed up an airball in his first shot attempt, but after Kenny Thomas banked in a hook and Moochie drained a three, the Rockets led 41-30.
When the Cavs called timeout you could see Rudy T say something to Langhi to keep his confidence up -- the kid hasn't played much this season and when he has the airball hasn't been uncommon.
Olajuwon missed a dunk, that brought out some laughs, but Francis made up for it by hitting a three, then Mobley scored on a fast break and the Rockets led 46-36 with 2:46 left in the half.
Still, the Rockets didn't close strong and the Cavs ran off 6 straight points to end the half. HALFTIME: Rockets 48, Cavs 44. Mobley had 14 and Francis 12 to lead the Rockets, but Andre Miller led all scorers with 17.
The third quarter was just boring. Neither team could score, but particularly the Rockets. With less than 2 minutes left, they had just 10 points in the period and led by just a point (58-57).
But from there the Rockets ran off 7 straight: Moochie nailed three free throws after gettin fouled by Miller on a triple attempt, Cuttino stole a pass and slammed it home running the other way, then nailed two free throws on the next Rockets possession. After three, it was 65-59 Rockets. Mobley had 20 points after three and Francis 18.
Pretty play saw KT get an offensive board off a Francis miss, put it back up and just miss, but Francis came flying over the top and slammed it home as it came off the rim -- crowd was rocking and Francis got a "T" for putting a little flare on it while hanging on the rim.
The next possession Steve put up a three and missed, but Cato snared the offensive board and found Mobley outside the arc who buried the triple. 70-61 Rockets.
Francis then nailed his 5th three-pointer and on the next play was fouled on a break, and made both free throws. The run was up to 10-0 and the Rockets led 75-61.
The Cavs would never threaten the rest of the way.