Full Recap coming...
Game Notes found below
The good news was Steve Francis was healthy enough to play. He missed Tuesday's practice and was listed as questionable coming in.
The Rockets jumped out early on the Sonics, taking a 10-5 lead, but it wasn't long before Seattle evened that up. 7-1" center Jerome James on one play picked a Francis pass and went the length of the court for a nasty slam in traffic... was pretty impressive.
The Rockets 'D' was not top notch in the first quarter ... one one play Gary Payton went in to the lane and simply lost his defender. No one picked him up and he went top of the key, got a pass and nailed a wide-open jumper.
But still, after one, 24-21 Rockets. Cuttino Mobley led all scorers with 9 points, Walt Williams chipped in 5 while Steve Francis and Kenny Thomas each added 4.
What was most impressive in the second quarter? The play of Jason Collier later in the period.
Collier came in off the bench and made a sweet no-look pass out on the wing to Mobley for three. Then he stripped Desmond Mason and made a full-court pass to Francis for a jam.
After getting fouled driving to the hoop and making a pair of freebies, Collier cut in front of a Gary Payton pass, then played the 2-man game with Francis down the court. Francis rewarded Collier, but he just went flat and missed the layup... but Mobley got the board, put it back in and was fouled.
Though the Rockets led almost the entire quarter, they slipped in the final 6 seconds. Brent Barry hit a triple, then intercepted the Rockets inbound and nailed a tough, fading triple at the buzzer. Sonics 54, Rockets 51 at half.
Mobley led all scorers with 21 big points (3-6 from long range) while Francis added 10 points, 7 boards and 3 assists. Mason led the Sonics with 13, Barry added 12, Rashard Lewis 9 and Payton 8.
Mobley continued his torrid shooting in the third, adding 7 more points to give him 28 for the game, while Walt Williams added 9 in the period. But Gary Payton was hot, and put up 10 in the third.
Through three, it was 76 all.
In the fourth, the Sonics took off on an 8-0 run, putting them up 88-81, and it seemed the Rockets were going to pack it in.
But the Rockets ran off 8 straight of their own, then Eddie Griffin nailed a bomb making it 92-88, then KT hit a long jumper and the run was at 13-0.
At the 3:30 mark, Payton hit a turnaround inside, ending the Rockets run.
The Rockets had the ball with under a minute to go, up 96-92. But Francis drove, missed a shot... Payton got the board and threw it length of the court to Brent Barry for a streaking slam.
But with 23.3 seconds left, Kenny Thomas drove and banked in a double-pump 7-footer over Art Long, making it 98-94 Rockets. Seattle immediately called timeout.
Right off the bat, Brent Barry scored, then Seattle intentionally fouled Mobley. He went to the line and calmly nailed both freebies. Again Seattle called a timeout.
Payton scored in no time (where is the defense?), and the Sonics fouled Moochie. He made the first, but missed the second. Seattle ran it up quickly... they moved it around, but ultimately as time expired, it fell in the hands of big oaf Predrag Drobnjak...
Not who you want shooting a three for the tie. Airball. Rockets win...