Welcome back, Mr. Olajuwon.
Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon made a triumphant return from his blood clot injury, scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 boards, as the Rockets unleashed a flop-stopping, Jazz-kicking destruction of Utah 109-86 Tuesday night.
The Jazz had not lost by more than 15 points all year... the Rockets led by thirty in the third period.
The win halts the Rockets' 3-game slide and ups their mark to 39-32, 3.5 games back of the Minnesota Timberwolves (though they must make up 5 in the loss column in the final 11 games)
It was a 4-point game after one when in came Olajuwon. He sparked an incredible run.
The Rockets, behind the play of their bench, outscored the Jazz 39-16 in the second period and that was the ballgame. Consider that just a few weeks ago Hakeem's season was definitely over, with many writing eulogies on his career, and here he is in the second quarter dropping in 7 points and looking so sharp I thought Jazz coach Jerry Sloan would accuse the Rockets (again) of faking an injury to give Dream a rest.
I digress. So who really shined in the second period? Kenny Thomas and Walt Williams. Holy nards KT hit all 5 shots he took in the second frame, scoring 12 of his 17. He finished the game 7-9 from the floor for 17 points while helping hold Karl Malone to 15 points on just 5-14 shooting. His partner in crime, Walt, drained 3 triples in the quarter, scoring 12 points in just his first 6 minutes of action. He finished with 15.
The bench duo was too much for the Jazz in the period, and the Rockets simply coasted from there.
Steve Francis led all scorers with 18 points, 9 assists and 6 boards and again got the better of John Stockton, who would play just 19 minutes, scoring 4 points and 6 assists. Meanwhile Shandon Anderson snapped out of a slump, scoring 15 points against his former team.
Cuttino Mobley added 11 while Kelvin Cato equalled his season scoring totals by actually scoring in double figures -- 10 points and a pair of blocks -- while "Afro Thunder" Moochie Norris got all 6 of his assists in the second period.
Super scrub Donyell Marshall led the Jazz with 17 points.
The Rockets hit 43% of their three-pointers (9-21) and turned it over just 10 times.
Thanks to Steve Francis, who scored 10 points in the period, the Rockets got off to a good start. Thanks to a 10-5 run to close the period, the Rockets led 27-23.
Shandon Anderson added 8 points.
But the moment the fans came to see came at the start of the second quarter. Hakeem "The Dream" returned.
To a standing ovation. Leading the ovation was Clyde Drexler, in attendance.
It was the emotional spark the Rockets needed. Mobley hit a jumper then Kenny Thomas a three-point play and the Rockets led 34-23. After Hakeem nailed a jumper, then Kenny Thomas an alleyoop layup on a fast break, the fans were going ballistic and the Jazz were forced to call timeout.
Rockets 40, Jazz 25.
Walt hit a three, then Kenny Thomas scored again (9 points in the first 5 minutes) and when Walt hit another triple, the Rockets led by 20 points at 49-29.
Walt scored again and when Hakeem put on a DreamShake for a score, it was 53-29 Rockets. Walt drained another triple (11 points in 5 minutes) and it was a 25-point advantage at 56-31.
After Moochie went coast to coast for a driving layup through traffic, and then found Shandon for a 2-on-1 slam, the Rockets went in to halftime with a 66-39 lead.
The second quarter damage: Houston outscored Utah 39-16 in the second. Kenny Thomas and Walt Williams each scored 12 in the period. KT was 5-5 from the floor while Walt was 4-6, including 3-5 from long range. Hakeem added 7 in the period. Moochie Norris had 6 assists -- all in the second period.
The bench turned a close game in to a rout. At halftime, the Rockets' bench was outscoring Utah's 35 to 6. Good night.
In the third the Rockets got a little sloppy early... Cuttino turned it over twice and the Jazz capitalized. After Stockton found Marshall underneath for a slam, the Jazz cut it to 23 at 71-48.
Cuttino redeemed himself -- he hit two straight triples to boost the lead back to 28 at 77-49.
From there in the third the Rockets didn't slip... when Francis found Cato for an alleyoop slam and foul (and he made the FT miraculously), the Rockets were up by 30 points at 88-58.
Through three, the Rockets led 92-65 -- 6 Rockets were in double figures at this point alone. Kenny Thomas led the team with 17, Shandon had 15, Francis 14, Walt 12, Mobley 11 and Cato (yes, Kelvin Cato) had 10. The Rockets were shooting 61.1% through the first 3 quarters.
The fourth quarter was a mere formality. When Walt found Hakeem underneath for a slam, the Rockets led 94-70.
When Bullard got in the action, hitting a trifecta, the Rockets led 104-76 and it was nuthin' but coatin' in the final frame.