Suddenly Elton Brand doesn't look so spectacular, eh Chicago?
Steve Francis, passed on by the Bulls with the first pick of the draft last summer, exploded for 19 points in a 37-point Rocket first quarter and the Rockets held on for dear life in the end, beating the Bulls 93-90 in Chicago.
The win is the second straight for the Rockets and improves their record to 12-24. It's also the first time the Rockets won in Chicago since 1993 (back when Vernon Maxwell was smacking his Airness all over the court).
The story however was Francis, who finished with 27 points and 11 assists. In the first quarter though he was insane -- going off for 19 on 8-11 shots (numerous slams), 4 assists and a pair of steals.
A huge game for the highlight reel tonight. On one play, Stevie picked Toni Kukoc from behind, ran the length of the court and alleyooped it to himself, wowing the Chicago crowd. He even nailed a few threes in the first. Something must have set him off, and no doubt playing against the team that passed him up got his juices flowing.
Whew... granted it's the Bulls, but knowing he can do this is downright scary.
The Rockets sandwiched two low-scoring quarters (14 points in the 2nd and 3rd) around 37 in the first and 28 in the fourth.
They needed all they could get too as ex-Rocket Matt Maloney sparked a late Bulls rally. Chicago, down 10 with about 4 minutes to go, trimmed the lead to 2 late. Maloney, who finished with 14 points and 3 assists on 6-14 shooting, scored a few buckets to get the team going, but also missed the team's final two shots.
As much as the Bulls tried to take the game, Rocket turnovers and free throw shooting tried to give it to them. Costly turnovers and misses late gave plenty of opportunities to the league's worst team to take the game. Cuttino Mobley in particular made some costly turnovers (6 for the game) and missed a shot or two late.
Cat finished with 13 points on 5-10 shooting.
Pig Miller (9 points, 8 boards) and Kenny Thomas (11 points, 5 boards, 4 assists) also missed some free throws. Pig was 1-7 from the charity stripe while Kenny was 3-7. The team shot less than 48% from the line.
Time to give Calvin a job.
Walt Williams saw serious time in the starting role, playing 39 minutes, and he responded. The Wizard, who has looked more like a 4th grade Apprentice this season, scored 17 points (7-12 shooting) and led the team in rebounds with 9.
Shandon Anderson added 8 points and 7 boards.
Kukoc led all scorers with 29 points and Elton Brand, taken the pick before Francis, scored 15 and grabbed 11 boards.