First Half Game Notes
With Glen Rice out, James Posey got the start and the Rockets came out looking strong. Up just 9-8, the Rockets took off on an 11-2 run, capped by a three-point play by Yao Ming and a jumper by Eddie Griffin.
Yao was a defensive force in the first quarter, coming up with 4 blocks. Antoine Walker for the layin - nuh-uh. Vin Baker took it right at Yao and he soundly rejected it. Then from behind it soundly rejected a driving layup by Paul Pierce. 5 points, 4 boards and 4 blocks for Yao in the first 11 minutes.
After one, Houston led 29-17 thanks to holding the Celtics to 25% shooting and hitting over 70% of their shots. Posey led the Rockets with 7 while Steve Francis and Eddie Griffin each had 6 in the period, with Francis adding 6 assists (wow).
The second quarter slowly became another story.
With Yao out, the Celtics clawed back to within 5 points. Yao came back in shortly after, made a 16-foot jumper then after a Griffin three, Yao made a great feed to Juaquin Hawkins on the wing for a jumper and the Rockets were back up 12.
That's when I thought Steve Francis lost control. Francis drove in to three defenders and either missed or refused to see a wide open Yao from 16-feet baseline. For a good second or two it seemed the obvious pass. Instead an ill-advised shot turned in to an offensive foul on the rebound.
Francis then picked a pass and streaked downcourt, but ran right in to Paul Pierce for a questionable offensive foul call. Francis was so hot in talking to the ref that Rudy immediately pulled him (and he did not return in the half).
The Celtics took advantage. Pierce nailed a triple as did rookie J.R. Bremer, who was hurting the Rockets most of the night, and at halftime, Houston was clinging to a 4-point edge, 50-46.
Francis did not have an assist in the second quarter while Mobley and Griffin led the Rockets with 9 a piece at half. Pierce led all scorers with 14 while Bremer had 13 and Antoine Walker 12.