Yao Ming debuted at home, but Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley continue to make it their show.
Francis scored 28 points, grabbed 8 boards and dished out 5 dimes while Mobley added 20 points of his own as the Rockets blew out the Raptors in the third and coasted to the 88-76 victory Saturday night.
The Rockets improve to 2-1 on the young 2002-2003 season.
The big fella however had his moments, when he was given the ball. In the first quarter Yao had two highlight reel plays, a spin-fake-turn-hook shot in the post and a baseline spin scoop shot, both of which sent the sellout crowd at the Compaq Center in to a frenzy.
Yao finished with 8 points on 4-7 shooting, 4 boards and a block in 24 minutes of time.
"He did great today. Just great," said Cuttino after the game. "It's only his third game and it's going to take some time. We're patient with him and encourage him as much as possible. Everyone needs encouragement."
The fans certainly encouraged the big fella as every time he touched the ball there was an electricity in the arena. Still, it seemed there were several opportunities for some of the Rockets to get him the ball when he was posting up, but they passed (no pun intended) on the idea.
Speaking of not passing, Francis and Mobley were offensive highlight reels. Francis shook up Lindsay Hunter and Alvin Williams all night, hitting the 17-foot jay with serious consistency and taking it to the rack often. 24 of his 28 points came in the first three quarters. He was just relentless -- hitting 12-23 shots on the night.
Mobley hit 8-20 shots for 20 points and 6 boards and had some very nice plays, including an amazing alleyoop slam from Francis where he had to wheel back and under to catch it, then bring it back for two.
Juaquin Hawkins got the starting nod believe it or not. It's hard to believe this guy came on to this very talented team with little to no shot of making the squad, and by game #3 he's starting. And with the injuries the Rockets have, he logged serious minutes (39), playing well (8 points, 6 boards, 4 assists and a steal).
Don't forget Eddie Griffin and Kelvin Cato.
Cato seems like he's motivated, possibly because he knows that job isn't going to be his much longer if he pulls his usual slack-ass job. 7 points, 11 boards and a pair of blocks in 24 minutes - Special K is now averaging 12 boards a night through the first 3 games.
The bets part of Griffin's night is he didn't go 3-14, or something thereabout. 3-7 shooting for Eddie, finishing with 10 points, 9 boards and 2 blocks.
Juaquin Hawkins started at small forward today and he opened up the scoring, taking the feed to drill a long deuce. After Mobley hit a long jumper and Francis followed suit with the same, the Rockets led 9-3.
Yao came in to the game with just over 8 minutes left and got a huge ovation from the crowd. The Rockets didn't slow down in the slightest. When Mobley popped another jumper, the Rockets led 17-7 with 6:17 left, and with Vince Carter limping off court while clutching his knee, Toronto had to call timeout.
After the timeout came the Yao Ming show. He got a feed in the block, spun past his man baseline, went hard to the hoop, faked the shot, spun back around and hit a hook shot right over his man. Awesome shot and the fans went nuts.
It was only beat by the very next play. Yao again got it in the block, turned to shoot, stopped as his manwent to block, then took one long step and reach in baseline and laid the ball in. Fans went nuts. Rockets led 21-10.
But then the Rockets stopped going to him. In fact, a couple of times Yao was posting up his man and other Rockets players seemed to hesitate in passing down low to him. Through three, Houston led 29-20.
Cuttino Mobley led the Rockets with 8 points, Francis had 6 while Ming had the 4. The Raptors got bad news just before the first quarter, finding out that Vince Carter's knee injury could be more serious than thought, and he'll be evaluated when he goes back to Toronto. He's out the night for sure.
Yao Ming continued to play early in the second, but shortly after going to the line (and missing both free throws), Cato came back in. When Francis found Hawkins on a fast break, who immediately fired it back to Francis for a layin, the Rockets led 34-25.
The Rockets offense, which shot 52% in the first quarter, went back to slow-mo mode, but fortunately Toroto wasn't much better. The Raps got within 5 before Mobley threw an alleyoop slam to Kelvin Cato and Steve Francis hit a long jumper, making it 42-33 Rockets.
Yao Ming came back in to the game with 2:43 left in the half, but never saw the ball. The Rockets closed the half when Francis found Mobley for an extremely tough alleyoop, giving the Rockets a 50-39 lead at intermission.
Francis had 13 points and 6 boards at the half, but just 2 assists -- and no excuses this time because he was running the point. Mobley added 12 points while Eddie Griffin had 6 points, 6 boards and a pair of blocks. Alvin Williams led the Raptors with 10. The Rockets held the Raptors to 30.8% shooting in the first half to the Rockets 48.8%.
Rockets jumped all over the Raptors to start the third. Griffin got a board, fired it to Francis who stopped on a dime on a fast break and drained a triple. Francis then found Griffin for a short jumper, then Griffin hit a turnaround off a post-up. After the Rockets picked a pass, which ended with Mobley scoring a layin in transition, Toronto had no choice but to stop the action, down 59-41.
Yao Ming came back in to the game with just over 4 minutes left in the third. But Francis and Mobley made the game their personal highlight reel. Francis just worked over Lindsay Hunter, making two straight jumpers after crossing him over all over the place. Mobley then scored on a three-point play in transition, and with 1:49 left, Ming hit a 7-foot hook shot just off baseline to get the fans up off their seats.
At the end of the third quarter, Mo Pete went for a driving jumper past Yao Ming at the buzzer, and Yao rejected it soundly. The rout was in full effect - Rockets 74, Raptors 53.
Francis had 24 points, 7 boards and 5 assists through three, while Mobley had 17.
Ming had his first dunk early in the fourth, and the Rockets toyed with Toronto most of the period, until a mini-scare late in the fourth when 3-4 straight Cuttino Mobley turnovers got the Raptors within 10.