(Game Recap coming...
... Game Notes below)
Cuttino Mobley put up 10 shots in the first period, nailing three three-pointers for 13 in the quarter. Problem is the rest of the Rockets (Hakeem, Francis, KT, Shandon) were a combined 4-17 from the floor for 9 points.
Payton had 11 for Seattle and it was all knotted up at 22 heading in to the second period.
After Walt hit a tough jumper over Payton and Shandon scored on a fast break, the Rockets led by 6 with just over 5 minutes to go in the half.
When Shandon added 2 more free throws a little later, the Rockets capped a 15-2 run and took a 46-36 lead with just over two minutes to go.
Halftime: Rockets 47, Sonics 41. Mobley led the Rockets with 15 while Shandon, Dream and Walt each added 7. Payton led Seattle with a dozen.
The pass-dunk combo of the night came in the third with 5:52 left. Shandon got out on a fast break and threw a perfect alleyoop fast to a leading Francis, who hammered it home with the type of pizazz Bill Kennedy despises. 56-49 Rockets.
Two more Francis buckets capped an 8-0 Rocket run. When Dream made a sweet behind the back pass to a cutting KT for two, the Rockets led 64-51 with just over 2 minutes left in the third.
Francis and Vin Baker exchanged buckets in the final 10 seconds as the Rockets took a 70-58 lead heading in to the final period. Francis scored 12 in the third alone while Kenny Thomas knocked down 9 and 6 boards in that time span as well.
The Sonics came back in the fourth. After Brent Barry nailed back to back threes, it was just 75-70 Rockets with exactly 8 minutes to go.
But the Rockets didn't wilt. Mobley nailed a three and Kenny Thomas kept up his torrid this quarter pace, scoring two more buckets, the second coming on a Moochie-to-Francis-to-KT fast break, and with 4+ minutes to go, the Rockets led 84-76.
Short-lived breathing room.
The Sonics went on an 8-0 run, capped by a Rashard Lewis offensive board and putback, and with just over 2 minutes to go we were all knotted up at 84.
But Cuttino Mobley responded with a three from the left baseline and after a Sonics score, Moochie found a streaking Kenny Thomas for a power slam, and the Rockets led 89-86 with 1:04 left. Timeout Seattle.
Payton missed a shot out of the timeout, but Ruben Patterson put the miss back in. With 30 seconds left Francis missed a short jumper, setting up the Sonics with a chance to take the lead.
Ruben Patterson drove, lost the ball, got it back and put up a jumper -- but Kenny Thomas blocked it. Walt got the ball, found a streaking KT who slammed it all alone on the break. Timeout Seattle with 6.8 seconds left. Rockets 91, Sonics 88.
With 2.8 seconds left on the clock, Moochie fouled Shammond Williams as the Rocks had a foul to give. After that, a Sonic three at the buzzer was no good, and the Rockets had the win.