The Rockets weren't healthy by any means, but on this night, Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis were enough to stop the flop.
The Rockets starting guard duo combined for 63 points as the team held off a late Jazz rally to beat Utah 104-97 Monday night.
The Rockets improved to 16-32 on the season.
Cuttino Mobley sizzled and baked. Spontaneous Combustion. Dude simply went gonzo, hitting all 9 of his shots in the first half for 22 points, and hitting his first in the third period to boot to go 10-10 to start the contest. He finished with 30 points on 11-16 shooting and also added 4 assists, including one sweet dime on the break to Terence Morris (7 points, 4 boards, 2 blocks) for a two handed slam.
Meanwhile, Steve Francis led all scorers with 33 points. He got to the free throw line at will, making 18-22 at the line, and hitting 7-14 from the field to boot. Though he turned it over 5 times, he handed out 7 assists and grabbed 5 boards.
Added Utah coach Jerry Sloan on Stevie going 18-22 at the stripe, "Francis is a terrific player, but he shot a couple of free throws even when he didn't get fouled."
Pot, meet Kettle.
Moochie Norris was in the hostpial Monday morning getting an IV due to food poisoning, but came back to score 7 points and hit a huge three-pointer with 2 and half minutes left that put the Rockets up 96-90. Eddie Griffin finished with 8 points (including a couple triples) and 7 boards.
Kenny Thomas came out strong on Karl Malone (8 points in first half, 31 for the game), hitting 5-6 shots for 13 points, 8 boards and a pair of steals, but his calf tightened up and he left the game in the third quarter without returning.
Combine this with the fact that Kelvin Cato did not play (like Moochie, had food poisoning) and Kevin Willis did not play (and was in Atlanta) for personal reasons. The Rockets were so strapped for healthy bodies they probably could have pulled some fans out in attendance and had them suit up.
Instead they opted for a much more drastic measure: They resurrected Jason Collier and Dan Langhi off the bench.
Langhi played 8 minutes, hitting both shots he took (including a nice finger roll) and dishing a sweet alleyoop pass to Francis. Meanwhile Collier hit a couple of free throws and grabbed a couple of boards in 10 minutes of PT.
Consider this: The Rockets started out hot (hitting 9 of their first 10 shots) and never really let up, hitting 61.1% of their shots from the field for the game. An awesome night, while the Jazz hit just 44.3% of their attempts. The Rockets should have rolled.... but instead it was a very close game down the stretch.
Their ballhandling continues to be a problem. For the second time in their last 3 games, the Rockets forced just 6 opponent turnovers. The Jazz had 30 assists (5.0 assist to turnover ratio) while the Rockets had 20 assists and 17 cough-ups (1.18 a/t ratio). That's why it was a close game.
But I'll back off... the Rockets deserved the game for shooting lights out and taking it to the Jazz. And any time the Rockets take it to the Jazz, I'm a happy camper.