It was the Toyota Center opening night. It was the 2003-2004 season opening night. It was Jeff Van Gundy's first regular season game coaching the Rockets, with the promise of an offense strongly dictated by Yao Ming and Steve Francis.
And Cuttino Mobley still wants all the shots.
Mobley scored 21 points and grabbed 8 boards while Yao dropped in 19 points in 20 foul-plagued minutes as the Rockets pulled away from rookie Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets 102-85 in Houston Thursday night.
After the Eddie Griffin fiasco, the season is now officially back on the right foot with the early 1-0 record.
They did it with an inside presence, and the Rocky Mountain News even went so far as to refer to the Rockets as "Muscular Houston". I mean, when was the last time that was the case?
Yao and Kelvin Cato were the big reason why. Yao was in foul trouble throughout, but still hit 6-8 shots at a near point-per-minute clip to go with 3 Nugget rejections.
Cato, dare we say it, looks to have completed the transformation from NBA laughing stock and punching bag stiff to the best backup center in the land and possibly legit power forward. Kelvin did all the dirty work when needed, and busted his butt out on the floor, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The guys inside were big.
Also big was Jim Jackson, who had a great game defensively against the rookie sensation Anthony. Carmelo missed 9 of his 14 shots and coughed it up 8 times.
"Houston did a good job of trying to contain me," Anthony told the Rocky Mountain News. "Whenever I touched the ball, they sent two guys on me, and that was their game plan."
Francis was a big factor for the Rockets as well. The Houston point guard finished with 17 points, 6 assists, 4 boards and a couple of steals.
Meanwhile, Mobley took the most shots of any player on the floor (6-16 shooting), and though he was out of control at times, you can't blame him too much. Despite a promise to play Mobley less minutes, Van Gundy kept him in there for 42, probably because he doesn't have Eric Piatkowski down at the end of the bench at the moment.
It was nice to see Maurice Taylor return in time for the season opener. Actually it was just nice to see Taylor healthy at all since it's fairly uncommon. Mo finished with 10 points and 4 boards in 19 minutes of play.
Meanwhile, it was the Toyota Center debut and it opened to big fanfare, but for nearly half an hour, the local fans were about to tear the Rockets' heads off.
As a result of the game being on TNT, Time Warner mistakenly blacked out the game to local viewers, setting off a firestorm of criticism on the BBS.
First night in a new arena that the city paid for and built, and the fans were blacked out. Huge, huge blunder by someone.
But order was restored before the first quarter was out, largely because the game was so incredibly foul-dominated that the pace was slow. The refs called 54 infractions in this one. NBA Action ... it's faaaaaantastic!
While the Nuggets are a much-improved team, it's still the Nuggets, so you can't go too gonzo over the 'W', but this was a key win that hopefully sets the tone for the season and the Van Gundy era.