Steve Francis struggled badly to start Tuesday night's game in New Jersey.
But that's not how he finished it.
Francis was the batteries in the Rockets game-closing 14-1 run and Houston held New Jersey under 34% shooting as the Rocks stunned the Nets 86-75.
The win ups the Rockets mark to 3-1 on the year.
Francis finished with 17 points, 10 boards and 6 assists, but that doesn't mean many fans weren't screaming for his benching early on.
Steve couldn't buy a basket in the first half, missing all 8 of his attempts. The second half? 15 points on 6-9 shooting.
"He's still their best player," Nets forward and former Rocket draftee Richard Jefferson told NewsDay. "Yao is a great player, an up-and-comer, but Steve can destroy a team on his own."
I disagree with that, but hey it's nice to argue over which player kicks ass more.
Speaking of hot shooting, Cuttino Mobley and Maurice Taylor were huge. Mobley hit 8-9 shots for 20 points and handed out 4 assists. Mo came off the bench for his best game so far this season, hitting 7-10 shots for 14 points and 7 boards in 28 minutes of action.
While the offense cooked late, it was defense throughout that was key.
Through the first 4 games of the season, the Rockets are holding opponents to a shade over 76 points a game, some 16 points less than opponents scored against Houston last season.
If Van Gundy is having an impact, look no farther than the defensive effort. This, truly, is a different team.
And that is in large part because of guys like Jim Jackson. So far he has turned out to be a very smart pickup by the Rockets. Jackson finished with 12 points, 8 boards and 4 steals in a rock-solid 40 minutes of play.
They gave up a last year contract in Glen Rice for what I thought was much too little, but there's no doubt that Jim Jackson is a much better fit for this team.