Yes Rudy, there is a Santa Claus.
Thanks to a heavy rain of three-pointers, the longest Rocket drought since the late 60's has come to an end. With 55 seconds left in the game, Eddie Griffin hit a three-point bomb, the team's 17th three-pointer on the night, to break a tie at 105 and give the Rockets a lead they would not relinquish.
The 15-game skid was over. Rockets 115, Bucks 110.
Griffin was just one of the heroes on the night. Cuttino Mobley simply had an amazing night. Cuttino scored a season-high 39 points, nailed 7-13 from long range and handed out 6 assists. He was 11-23 overall.... this coming after he missed 8 of his first 11 shots in the first half. In the second half, Mobley went 8-12 from the floor, including 5-8 from long range. In the third period alone he popped off for 18 points on 6-6 from the field.
He simply erupted.
As for Griffin, he was fantastic. He finished with 24 points, 10 boards, 4 assists and a block. He was 9-18 from the floor, and 4-7 from downtown, including the biggest shot of his young career in the final minute. Sweet Moses! Suddenly the kid rook, who looked a few years away from being a big impact player, is paying immediate dividends. He has started the last 3 games, and in those games he is averaging 19 points on 51% shooting (47% from long range), 10 boards and 2 rejections a night.
Walt Williams also had a very big night... he nailed 6-10 from beyond the arc and 3 of his bombs came in the crucial fourth quarter, including one in the final 2 minutes to give the Rocks a 105-102 edge. 22 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and a steal for the Wizard.
The final contributor in Saturday night's Fearsome Foursome was Moochie Norris. 19 points and 14 assists for Moochie on 8-13 shooting. Combined, the four players put up 104 of the Rockets 115 points. Staggering...
In fact, only 6 Rockets scored the entire game. Kelvin Cato (9 points, 9 boards) and Terence Morris (2 points, 1-5 from the floor) put up digits, but Dan Langhi, Kevin Willis and Tierre Brown all got doughnuts in limited action.
The damage from long range? 17-35 for the Rockets... that's some serious long range volleys flying. The Bucks, playing without Ray Allen, got big nights from Glenn Robinson (29 points) and former Rocket Sam Cassell (28 points) and the Rockets didn't do a good job of containing Milwaukee, who shot 53% from the floor.
They simply beat them from 24-feet and beyond.
For the second straight night, Eddie Griffin came out strong in the first quarter. After he went up strong for two over Rocket draftee Joel Pryzbilla (who was traded for Jason Collier and a pick in the 2000 NBA Draft), Griff had 9 points and the Rockets led 23-16.
After one it was 28-20 Houston. Eddie had the 9 points to go with 5 boards and 2 assists. Walt Williams, starting instead of Oscar Torres, had 8 points (including a couple of threes) and 5 boards as well. Cuttino Mobley had a really bad quarter shooting the ball, missing 5 of his 6 attempts.
Glenn Robinson led the Bucks with 8.
Walt and Moochie put the Rockets up 12 early in the second with consecutive buckets, but the Bucks went on an 8-2 run to trim the lead to 6. Whoa, Dan Langhi with playing time! He came in for Griffin just under the 9-minute mark.
The Rockets built their lead back up to 9 at 39-30 after Moochie and Mobley scored buckets, and despite Cuttino and Walt starting to miss shots, the Rockets kept their lead... until late. After Moochie scored a deuce with 2:21 left in the half, The Rockets were up 43-36, but Sam Cassell scored 4 quick points, then after Mobley and Walt missed three-point attempts, Tim Thomas scored.
Then Cuttino turned the ball over and with 3 seconds left, Thomas scored again, this time a triple. The Bucks had closed on a 9-0 run in the final two minutes. Halftime: Milwaukee 45, Houston 43.
The Rockets, who had shot 50% in the first quarter, were now shooting just 37% for the game by halftime. They were outscored 25-15 in the second period. Robinson had 10 and Cassell and Thomas each added 9 for the Bucks. Mobley (3-11 from the field) and Walt (4-11) led the Rockets each with 10, but combined shot just over 31% from the floor. Griff had the 9 and 5 still from the first period and Moochie Norris added 8 points and 5 assists.
Griffin came out in the third quarter like he did in the first -- hot. He hit three straight buckets (16 points, now 7-11 from the field) while Mobley hit a three and a deuce and the Rockets trailed 61-60. But Cassell and Robinson sandwiched jumpers around a Walt miss and Houston called timeout, down 65-60.
Moochie and Mobley (19 points at this point) each scored out of the break to cut it to one, but Robinson countered with a three and Anthony Mason hit 1-2 free throws.
But Mobley was hot. He hit another jumper, and after Griffin found Kelvin Cato for a slam, Mobley hit an insane three-pointer. After Robinson hit two free throws, Cuttino hit another triple, and the Rockets led 77-73.
Heading in to the fourth: Rockets 79, Bucks 75. After some horrible shooting in the first two quarters, Mobley awoke bigtime. He was 6-9 from long range at this point for 28 points overall ... in the third period alone he scored 18 points and was 6-6 from the floor. Wow...
Griffin missed a shot early in the fourth, but Moochie stole the board and scored to make it 81-75 Rockets. Robinson scored quickly on Walt, and after Walt and Cuttino (from three) misses, Mason scored underneath to make it a 2-point ballgame.
Moochie then drove, found Cuttino for another three and this one he nailed. 31 points and 7 three-pointers at this stage. 84-79 Rocks.
Cuttino made two free throws, and after Michael Redd scored again, Walt nailed a three to make it 89-83 Rockets. A little later Mobley scored again, giving him 35 points, and when Walt hit another triple, the Rockets led 96-89 with 5:16 to go.
The Bucks cut it to 4, but with 4:35 to go, Griffin nailed a three and the Rockets led 99-92.
BUT, Mason and Cassell fueled 6 straight points for the Bucks to make it 99-98 Houston and Rudy T had to call timeout with 3:23 to go.
Moochie went to the line, making just the first to make it 100-98, and Robinson quickly tied it with a bucket. Mobley then missed a three, but Griffin fought for the rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws. Rockets up 102-100 with under 2 minutes to go.
Cassell quickly tied it, but Walt Williams hit his 6th three-pointer to make it 105-102. But cold-blooded Cassell countered with his own three and it's tied again!
Then Eddie Griffin hit the biggest shot of his young NBA career .... a 25-foot bomb to make it 108-105. Cato was then fouled going for a reboudn on a Bucks miss. He made 1-2 at the stripe. Timeout Bucks. 29 ticks left and Houston up 109-105.
Robinson missed a shot, and Cato got the board and again was fouled. He made both and the Bucks used another timeout. Robinson nailed a three and they quickly fouled Mobley. He made both with just over 8 ticks remaining. Mobley added two more free throws after a Bucks score to give him 39 for the night.
The Rockets had done it.... the skid stops here.