Moochie Norris sure does love buzzer beaters.
The Rockets backup guard nailed a triple at the horn, stunning the Knicks as the Rockets beat New York 88-86 Tuesday night, upping their mark to 11-23 on the year.
Mooch took a last second feed from Steve Francis and fired up a trifecta from the corner, just off the baseline. It went in as time expired and the Compaq Center simply erupted. Moochie jumped up on the press table, tore his uniform off and screamed and celebrated. Priceless moment... (video clip of shot from NBA: Quicktime | AVI)
But not unusual for Moochie (13 points, 4 assists, 5-7 from the floor). Just this season he nailed a bomb to beat the Suns at the buzzer in Phoenix and last year he hit a 35-foot bank shot in Oakland as time expired to beat the Warriors.
The little man has hit some big shots.
And a not so little man made a huge contribution tonight - Eddie Griffin. My goodness the rook was all over the place when he played. He finished with 13 points and 8 boards, but most importantly he swatted a career high 6 shots. His 6th was a key rejection of an Othella Harrington layup with around 2 minutes to go that energized the Rockets late.
And did you see the rejection he had of a Latrell Sprewell drive? Whew! Looked like computer pong on speed. This kid is something special.
And what about Francis, who earned the game-winning dime? Despite being plagued early by turnover problems, Francis finished with a near triple-double of 19 points, 9 boards, 9 assists and 3 steals and of his 4 turnovers, none were in the second half. Not a good shooting night (6-15), but still a strong showing from the Franchise.
And we haven't even mentioned Kenny Thomas yet. He put through 7 of his first 8 shots, scored 14 in the first quarter and finished with 24 points to lead the Rockets.
Cuttino Mobley, who has been in a bit of a shooting slump, again did not shoot well (5-14 shooting, 4 turnovers), but he made a huge play in the final two minutes, grabbing the offensive board off a Francis miss and puttiung it back in to give Houston an 85-84 edge.
As for offensive boards, the Rockets got slaughtered in this department. The Knicks held a 16-6 advantage on the offensive glass and that was the reason the game was so close despite the Rockets shooting 50% for the game to New York's 37.1%.
Allan Houston led all scorers with 28 points while Mark Jackson added 14 points and 6 assists. Former Rocket Shandon Anderson came off the bench to hit a pair of threes, scoring 8 points.
The Rockets started out the game very sloppy... they hadn't played even 6 minutes yet and had 6 turnovers. Down 9-8, Rudy T called a timeout.
It helped. The Rockets defensive intensity picked up and the Rockets came out scoring to boot. Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley each scored and Kenny Thomas was simply on fire. He hit 7 of 8 shots in the first quarter for 14 points, helping the Rockets take a good lead.
After one: Rockets 26, Knicks 21. Francis had 6 points and 5 boards, but turned it over 3 times. The Rockets sizzled shooting the ball, hitting 68.8% in the first quarter and held the Knicks to under 40% shooting.
KT came out and missed his first two shots before taking a breather on the bench, but thanks to Eddie Griffin, the Rockets didn't miss much of a beat. Griffin rejected a shot in the first quarter, then stamped another one on a Knicks fast break. He also added a long jumper from 17-feet out.
One player who did not look good early was Oscar Torres. He blew an easy layup from a beautiful pass underneath from Francis, then airballed (way short) an open three-pointer just right of top of the key.
After Francis banked in a 13-footer, the Rockets led 32-25.
Former Rocket Shandon Anderson came in off the bench and immediately paid dividends for the Knicks. He scored a deuce, then nailed a triple and after another former Rocket, Othella Harrington, scored, it was only 34-32 Rockets.
But Moochie Norris, KT and Mobley all scored, sparking a 6-2 closing run and at halftime the Rockets led 42-36.
KT led the team with 16 points while Francis scored 8 and grabbed 8 boards, dished 3 assists and picked 2 steals (but turned it over 4 times). Griffin hit 3-5 shots for 8 points, 3 boards and blocked 4 shots in the first half alone (16 minutes of play). Mobley shot just 4 times, making a pair for 4 points. Allan Houston led the Knicks with 9 while Latrell Sprewell had 8.
It was hard to believe the Rockets led by just 6 points. They outshot the Knicks 54.3% to 34%, but New York got off 50 shots to the Rockets 35 thanks to an 11-2 offensive rebounding advantage.
The lead remained the same for a while, and even Kelvin Cato got in to the action, scoring 4 points on a couple of slams.
After Francis and KT each scored, and Francis added a pair of free throws, the Rockets upped their lead to 8.
But Allan Houston nailed a three, then after Mobley missed a three, then got called for an offensive charge after a Francis steal, Shandon nailed a triple and the Knicks were within two.
Through three: Rockets 68, Knicks 64. Griffin did not play the whole quarter. KT led Houston with 22 while Francis had 14, 9 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals. Allan Houston had 20 to pace New York.
Hilarious. Lisa Maloskey interviewed former Rocket Mario Elie just before the fourth quarter and Mario point-blank called the Rockets-Knicks contest so far a "boring game".
The Rockets started cold in the fourth. Francis, Griffin and KT all missed as the Knicks took their first lead of the night, 69-68. Timeout Rockets just 2 minutes in to the fourth.
Francis and Mobley each missed out of the timeout and it looked like it would be a long quarter. Camby added two free throws to up the lead to 3, but KT responded with a tough deuce inside. Then Charlie Ward hit a wide open triple to make it 74-70.
But Griffin nailed a 17-footer, then got a defensive board and in one motion fed Francis on the break, who was fouled. After he made both, it was 74-74 with 7:00 left to go.
The Rockets shut down the Knicks, but on the other end Mobley missed an alleyoop layup from Francis. Allan Houston made them pay, draining a wide open triple to make it 77-74.
But Eddie Griffin countered immediately with a three of his own. 77-77 with 5:43 to go.
Then Griffin got nasty .... Sprewell drove to the hoop and Eddie blocked him something fierce, his 5th rejection of the night, and in transition Moochie was fouled. He made 1-2.
Sprewell scored off an offensive board, and Mobley retaliated with a baseline 15-footer. Sprewell scored quickly in response, but with 3:23 to go, Francis nailed a triple and it was 83-81 Rockets.
But damn, Charlie Ward hit a three in response and the Knicks took the lead back.
After a series of misses on both sides, Othella Harrington grabbed an offensive board and went to putback, but Griffin swatted it for his career-high 6th block. On the other end, Francis put up a bad shot, but Mobley got the board and put in a tough putback and the place was exploding.... Rockets 85, Knicks 84 with minute and a half left.
Griffin played tough interior D and got the board, but Mobley missed a three on the other end. But Ward missed a triple and again Griffin got the board. Timeout Rockets with 27 ticks left.
But up one and with time to milk, Moochie drove and Camby intercepted, but was clearly moving... the refs called a charge and the place went nuts. Knicks ball with 13.5 seconds left and the score 85-84 Houston. Timeout New York.
They inbounded to Allan Houston, who stared down Cuttino Mobley one-on-one. Houston drove right, stopped, popped and nailed a 17-footer right over Mobley's outstretched hand. Timeout Rockets with 7.5 seconds left.
The Rockets inbounded to Francis and he was immediately fouled with 6.0 seconds left (Knicks had one to give). They inbounded again to Francis, who was near the halfcourt line and was defended well. He penetrated to his right and looked like he was about to be stripped by a charging Charlie Ward, but he threw it to Moochie baseline three at the last second....
Clutch can be reached at email@example.com and also can be followed on Twitter