A little help from the rookies can go a long way in making the future look bright.
Steve Francis and Kenny Thomas both went off for career highs in points as the Rockets beat the Mavericks 121-111 in Dallas.
It's the Rockets' third straight win, all on the road (and all against lottery teams) and improves their record to 13-24.
The game also marked the return of Hakeem Olajuwon from injury. Dream made his presence known with 3 blocks and some altered shots, but for the first time in the 1090 games of his storied career, he did not score a single point. Hakeem played just 14 minutes and was 0-4 from the field.
He did provide some veteran leadership however, even verbally by giving rookie Francis a big confidence boost.
Said Hakeem: "(Francis) is so talented. He should never have a bad game. Even if he doesn't score, he can still create things for the rest of us. A bad game for him would be a good game for most guys."
He wasn't joking.
Francis hit 8-16 shots and got the line 15 times, making 14 of the freebies, to score 31 points, hand out 11 assists and grab 6 boards. Stevie did turn the ball over 7 times, but aside from that, it was a career game for Francis.
But you get the feeling that career high won't last long.
Speaking of career highs for a rookie, Kenny Thomas stepped up. In light of injury news to Carlos Rogers, Thomas saw 35 minutes of action off the bench, hitting 6-12 shots and 8-10 free throws for career highs in points (20) and rebounds (12; tied career high).
Seeing Thomas go off was especially good news. This guy couldn't get off the pine to start the season, playing behind Dream, Rogers, Charles Barkley and Tony Massenburg, and now, due to a plethora of injuries, he's seeing time and responding.
The rookies indeed shall lead them. During the Rockets 3-game winning streak, Francis is averaging around 26 points, 11 assists and 6 boards while Thomas is averaging about 15 points and 10 boards per. (see clutchcity.net player stat profiles for Steve Francis and Kenny Thomas)
Speaking of hot, how about Walt Williams? I may have to take back all the nasty things I said about his play. Walt only played 18 minutes, but blew up for 17 points on 7-10 shooting. During the 3-game streak, he's averaging nearly 16 a contest and hitting nearly 58% of his shots.
Cuttino Mobley also played well, hitting 7-13 shots for 17 points. Shandon Anderson wasn't too far off from a triple double, scoring 10 points, grabbing 8 boards and dishing 6 assists ... not to mention 3 steals and a block.
Anderson also had a message for Sam Mack, who said the Rockets made a mistake taking Shandon instead of Sam.
"Sam played a good role when he was with the Rockets and with what the Rockets were doing last season," Anderson told the Houston Chronicle. "But I'll match my game with anyone in the league. The Rockets made their decision. It's me."
Matt Bullard scored 12, and hit a huge three-pointer late that iced a furious Maverick rally and pretty much won the game. Bullard was 0-8 from three-point range in his past 4 games, but was 2-3 against the Mavs.
The Rockets were wiping the Mavericks all over the Reunion Arena floor at one point, leading by 20 in the third, but thanks to 4 straight turnovers nearing the end of the third, Cedric Ceballos (39 points) and the Mavs trimmed the lead to 8, then down to 2 in the fourth.
Led by Francis and Thomas however, the Rockets wouldn't relinquish the lead.