In the matchup of rookies, Amare Stoudemire got the better of Yao Ming.
In the matchup of Western Conference upstarts, Yao Ming's team got the better of Amare Stoudemire's.
Houston's guards came up big in the second half, hitting several clutch shots, while James Posey played a key role as the Rockets held on late to beat the Phoenix Suns 102-96 Wednesday night.
Houston improved their record to 22-15 and has now won 5 of their last 6, while drawing within half a game of the Suns for 5th best record in the West.
Stoudemire was a Man-Child in this one, finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds, including 7 offensive. In the first quarter he clearly got the edge over Yao, scoring 9 while Yao had just 2 points on 1-6 shooting. Yao did not have a good shooting night at all, missing several shots he should have made.
Both had highlights -- Stoudemire threw down a nasty dunk over Yao in the first quarter while Yao had two embarrassing rejections of Stoudemire later in the game, one on Amare when he was going for a one-hand hammer jam. Stoudemire put up 21 shots (if you could call them "shots" ... they all seemed like brute dunk attempts) in this one, making 8, while Yao finished with 11 points on just 4-13 shooting and 7 boards.
Not his best performance leading up to his matchup with Shaq on Friday.
Props to Cuttino Mobley in this one - dude scored 30 big points. Man did he have his stroke working. Some of the shots he would put up I would just shake my head, but then he would get nothing but net. And damn if we didn't need them all tonight.
I would really like to give props also to Steve Francis as he finished with 19 points and 8 assists, and really helped the Rockets build a stronger lead at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth. He pulled off 3 sweet moves at the close of the third period that really gave the Rockets a boost. First, he drove and weaved between two defenders for a layin, and the play was phenomenal. It was almost like he found holes in the defense where there weren't any, hopping right to left and stopping on a dime.
After a triple by the Suns, Francis nailed one of his own, then scooped up a botched dribble by Mobley and hit a sweet fadeaway 20-footer as the shot clock ran out, putting the Rockets up 7 with 7.5 seconds left in the third.
That really gave the Rockets momentum as they beefed their lead up to 14 early to midway through the fourth.
But boy did he make a monster-sized blunder with about a minute left in the game and the Suns rallying. Francis got in to some extracurricular activity, arguing with Randy Brown. The ref got between them, and called a double technical. But even after things seemed to cool down for a second, it continued, with Brown baiting Francis.
He stupidly took that bait, and kept on bitching. The refs got tired of it and kicked them both out of the game.
Francis is a star. Brown is a scrub. But when it came to brains on that play, the roles were reversed. Stevie simply has to learn the team is more important than this and needs him out there on the floor in the critical stretch against a top Western Conference opponent.
Hard to believe I'm just now giving props to James Posey in this recap, but I absolutely loved his play tonight. This is the anti-Rocket it seems. A guy who hustles, busts his ass and doesn't require coddling on the offensive end to be happy. He saved the Rockets' bacon late with a critical offensive board and tough putback as well as knocking down some big free throws. 14 points and 11 boards for Posey, who is starting to get on my "Mario Elie good side".
Stephon Marbury was huge for the Suns, finishing with 32 to lead all scorers. I think I'm not the only one who noticed he took this game very personally and was jawing with Francis at times. Shawn Marion added 25 and 13 for the Suns as well.
I'd just like to point out one other thing: With Dan Langhi's one triple tonight, he matched the total three-point output for his entire Houston Rocket career (and yes, that spanned two years). Way to go Dan!
First Half Game Notes:
Cuttino Mobley was simply smoking hot in the first quarter, hitting his first 5 shots for 13 points and just like that the Rockets were up 16-9 over the Suns.
But the rest of the quarter was another story.
Phoenix simply outhustled Houston, especially on the boards, and the Rockets had gone ice cold. Phoenix closed the quarter on a 21-6 run, leading 30-22 after one. As far as the rookie matchup goes, early it was all Amare Stoudemire, who had 9 points on 4-7 shooting and had a dunk over Yao as well. Yao had nothing working, going 1-6 in the period for 2 points.
The Kings kept their lead at 8 early in the second, but slowly but surely, the Rockets turned things around. Moochie Norris and a trio of dunks got them going.
After Eddie Griffin threw down a dunk, Yao one of his own then another by Eddie, the Rockets were within four at 36-32.
The Rockets went to the line 4 straight times, making 6-8 (the 2 misses by Yao), and the game was tied and when Terence Morris hit an open jumper just inside the arc, the Rockets regained the lead 40-38.
At halftime: Rockets 42, Suns 38. After giving up 30 in the first frame, Houston had held the Suns to just 8 points in the quarter.
Mobley still led the Rockets with 13 (which he had like in the first 6 minutes) while Stoudemire had 13 and 8 boards for the Suns. UGLY shooting affair though. Very ugly. The Suns were shooting 30.6% at half and Houston not much better at 34.9%.