It was a game the Rockets simply should have had, and they couldn't hold it.
Stephon Marbury hit a runner with just over 6 seconds left and Eddie Griffin's three at the buzzer was off as the Suns beat the Rockets 88-87 in Phoenix Saturday night, dropping the Rockets' record to 4-3.
Again, frustration. You could see it in Rudy T after the game. The Rockets coach walked off the floor, kind of threw his fist in disgust and let out an expletive, It was the kind of game the Rockets would have lost the last 3 seasons, and this was a chance to show their improvement.
Some plays down the stretch just boggled the mind.
- With 3:29 left and the Rockets up 85-82, Cuttino Mobley simply threw the ball out of bounds on the simplest of passes to Glen Rice.
- From the 1:59 to the 0:59 mark of the fourth quarter, the Rockets, leading 87-86, had 4 opportunities to score (grabbing 3 offensive boards after misses) and could not.
- With 1:21 left in the game, Cuttino Mobley went to the line with a chance to put the Rockets up 3. He missed both free throws.
- With 35 seconds left, the Rockets forced a Marbury miss and got the board, still up 1. The Rockets wasted so much time, Eddie Griffin passed on a three and ended up with a 24-second shot clock violation, setting up Marbury's game-winner.
Steve Francis had his first bad game of the year, missing 13 of his 18 shot attempts. Mobley was smoking hot in the first quarter, finishing with 13 points (including 3 trifectas) in the first half, but in the second half he wasn't involved much and was not a factor, finishing with the same 13 points.
Meanwhile the Suns backcourt of Marbury and Penny Hardaway combined for 34 points and 21 assists, while Shawn Marion led all scorers with 27.
The Rockets had some players step up, that's for sure. For starters, Maurice Taylor. Mo hit a couple of huge shots in the fourth quarter, and as hot as he appeared to be, it's questionable why Rudy T pulled him with just over 3 minutes left in the fourth in favor of Eddie. 14 points (7-13 from the floor) in just 18 minutes for Mo.
Yao Ming also played well. He hit 5-6 shots and boy did his stroke look pretty, particularly on a shot in the third quarter when he turned on his man and drained a 14-footer. I'm also noticing that Yao is learning quickly to just slam the ball - the Rockets clearly must be instilling this mindset in him. When he gets a good feed down low, he doesn't go up for the soft layin anymore. He just throws it down.
I also liked Glen Rice's contribution in this one. He hit 4-7 shots for 10 points and his stroke seemed to be working. Kenny Thomas finished with 14, 6 boards and 5 dimes, but hit just 5-15 from the floor.
All in all, it was very good to see other Rocket weapons step up, and the team's depth excited me tonight. But tonight they clearly lacked leadership and savvy down the stretch, because this game was theirs.