Miami put on some Heat, but the Rockets held up.
Seeing a 21-point lead wilt to 3 in about 9 minutes of basketball, the Rockets refused to blow the game, came together and put away the Heat, 91-80 Saturday night in Miami.
The Rockets did it with defense, holding the Heat to less than 35% shooting, in upping their record to 8-6.
No matter that Alonzo Mourning didn't play for the Heat -- This is a huge win for the Rockets, who come home having taken their East Coast road trip with a 2-1 record (Who would have thought we would beat the Pacers and Heat but lose to the Celtics?).
Cuttino Mobley led all scorers with 21 points, hitting 6-14 shots and making 9-10 from the charity stripe, to go with 6 boards. Though Cat was his usual crazed self shooting the ball at times, he hit some big shots and was huge in the second quarter.
But the MVP of the game? Our call is Kenny Thomas. Thomas scored 7 of his 13 points in the final period, and nailed a monster, gutsy three-ball with 5 minutes left that put the Rockets up 8 and took the wind out of the once-charging sails of Miami. Thomas, not Maurice Taylor, played crunch time and most of the fourth quarter, and added 7 boards in his 27 minutes off the bench.
Mo scored 8 points and grabbed 4 boards in the same amount of time. 4 players (Francis, Mobley, Walt and KT) outrebounded our starting power forward. Mo, simply put, while a great offensive player, needs work on some of the intangibles that make good power forwards great power forwards.
Steve Francis hit half of his 10 shots, scoring 15 points, grabbing 7 boards and handing out 5 assists. Walt Williams added 10 points and 7 boards while Matt Bullard hit some huge threes (3-4 from downtown), scoring 9 points off the bench.
Bottom line is the refs sucked ass... the Heat got some very favorable calls late that could have cost the Rockets the game. Anthony Mason bricked 6 of his 8 shots but was the beneficiary of many of those calls, going to the line 12 times (and not missing a single freebie). Eddie Jones led the Heat with 18 points (and 5 steals) while Brian Grant and Tim Hardaway each scored 15.
Oh to have Brian Grant in a Rocket uniform... I just love that guy's work ethic. I could do without the $90+ million contract however.
Mo Taylor scored 6 and Dream added a couple of buckets as the Rockets got out to an early 21-16 lead after one.
Kenny Thomas scored a deuce to start the second quarter followed by a Matt Bullard three-ball and the Rockets led by 10, 26-16. After a Mobley drive then a Moochie layup it was 32-18 Rockets.
The Rockets, behind Mobley and Moochie, kept pouring it on. After a Mobley banker, the Rockets led by 17, 40-23.
What a gorgeous play by Hakeem too with just over a minute to go in the half. Eddie Jones drove hard to the basket past Hakeem, but like a big cat, Dream swiped it out of his hands from behind, Mobley picked it up, ran the length of the court and was fouled going to the hoop on the other end.
After Mobley made both free throws, the Rockets led 44-27.
Though the Heat ran off 5 quick points, Bullard nailed a three off a feed from Mooch with 2.3 seconds left in the half, giving us the halftime score of 47-32 Rockets.
The Rockets played terrific defense, holding Miami to 30.5% (11-36) shooting in the first half.
Walt Williams nailed a long jumper, a three, then another deuce to score 7 quick points in the first 2 and a half minutes of the third, putting the Rockets up 54-36.
After Hakeem swung around a pick and laid one in for two, Walt picked off a Tim Hardaway pass and found Steve Francis snowbirding for a soaring layup, putting the Rockets up a whopping 20 points, 60-40.
Interesting call by the refs that gave the momentum to Miami. The Heat, down by 21 (62-41) were frustrated and it showed... Tim Hardaway tried to floor Steve Francis with an elbow/shoulder, and Francis retaliated with a shove and both players stood their ground and stared each other down. The call was a flagrant on Francis... it resulted in 4 points for the Heat (two free throws by Hardaway and two more by Eddie Jones).
Two more free throws then a fast break dunk by Jones off a turnover made it 62-49 Rockets -- Rudy called timeout to stop the bleeding.
It didn't work. After two free throws by Anthony Mason, the Heat run was 13-3, cutting the Rockets lead to 63-53. Hardaway nailed a three from the top of the key, and the crowd was roaring, putting the Heat within 7 at 65-58.
Though Bullard nailed a huge three for a temporary stop gap, it was the officiating that got downright pathetic. Mason clobbered Steve Francis on a rebound, pushing him cold to the floor (I thought it was going to be flagrant on Mason), but unbelievably the foul was called on Francis.
Mason nailed two free throws, then Eddie Jones two more (on another touch foul), and the third ended (mercifully) with the Rockets clinging to a 6-point lead, 68-62.
After a Brian Grant slam in Bullard's face, it was 70-67 Rockets. The Rockets couldn't buy a bucket, but fortunately neither could the Heat but Kenny Thomas emphatically slammed home an Hakeem miss, and the Rockets lead was 72-67.
Another bogus call as Mason, trapped under the basket, jumps in to Hakeem away from the basket. Dream blocks him and there was a foul on Hakeem. Sickening call. Mason made both free throws. 72-69 Houston.
Then the Rockets woke up. Francis made both free throws, then Kenny Thomas showed he has big brass ones by nailing a huge three, then Francis followed that with a short bank shot, and walla! Rockets led 79-69 with just over 5 minutes to go.
The Heat never got closer than 7 the rest of the way.