The last 3 games, against the Hawks, Clippers and Warriors, the Rockets have inexcusably lowered their level of play down to that of their competition.
However you can't argue with two things: 1) They're winning, and 2) Steve Francis is kicking ass.
Francis scored 24 points and nailed 4 big free throws in the closing seconds that helped the Rockets beat the Warriors 86-81 in Houston Saturday night.
The win ups the Rockets' record to 35-28 and is now their 13th win in their last 16 games. The victory, coupled with the Timberwolves' loss to Orlando Saturday night, means the Rockets are now just 2 games back of the playoffs.
It therefore sets up the most important game the Rockets have played since the 1998-1999 playoffs: Sunday night in Phoenix.
A power forward averaging 20 points and 7 boards is All-Star caliber. Now lets say he's not a power forward but a point guard.
This is why Steve Francis is a star. The kid hit 9-19 shots to score the 24 points, grabbed 7 boards, dished 7 assists and picked 5 steals to lead this team on a night when very few could put the ball in the hole. Granted, his turnovers (6) have been a problem lately, but Francis is primarily responsible for the Rockets going 3-0 in their last few games and not 0-3.
Providing a huge lift off the bench was Carlos Rogers, who did almost all his damage in the first half. Carlos had 12 points and 9 boards in his first 15 minutes of action, finishing with 12 and 11 in 28 minutes. He hit 5-6 shots and is hitting over 70% from the field for the season.
Again, Rudy can't seem to provide an answer as to why Los' butt has been firmly planted on the bench all year.
Moochie Norris, like Francis, was huge in the fourth quarter. He scored 9 of his 11 in the final period.
Cuttino Mobley was not a big factor -- he hit 3-8 shots and all 6 of his free throws for 13 points and, like Stevie, committed 6 turnovers. Shandon Anderson hit 4-10 for 10 points.
After that it looks grim. Maurice Taylor was totally ineffective, hitting just 2-9 shots for 5 points while Walt Williams was a dismal 1-8 from the floor and ironed all 5 of his threes.... not a good sign for a "shooter".
In all due fairness to Mo, he had to guard Antawn Jamison and 'Tawn made the evening even more difficult. Jamison led all scorers with 34 points, including 6 straight in the final 2 minutes that brought the Warriors within one (before Francis saved the day).
Overall though, just an ugly, ugly game. The Warriors shot just over 39% while the Rockets bricked 15 of their 19 three-pointers. Both teams turned it over 20 times.... I mean come on, who wants it?