It looked like Hakeem Olajuwon's return to the line-up threw the Rockets back in time to 1993 when they were playing "Uglyball" and winning. The only problem is that they forgot to win.
Houston dropped yet another loss at home to the league-leading Philadelphia 76ers in overtime 85 to 84. Don't let the final score decieve you, however. Despite close score, the Rockets fate was sealed with their fourth quarter mistakes and overtime blunders.
This game started bad and just got worse. The Rockets managed only 7 for their first 37 shots and needed 18 minutes of the first half just to reach 20 points. Amazingly, they were only down 10 at that point and rallied back to tie the game at the half - at 32. For a minute I thought I was watching Bob Cousy and George Mikan instead of Steve Francis and Olajuwon.
Despite the poor shooting, the Rockets got strong performances from Shandon Anderson and Francis allowing them to stay close.
With that kind of scoring frenzy (insert sarcasm here) in the first half, the only real excitement came from three separate incidents...
The first was when Olajuwon entered the game with 4:31 left in the first to a roaring ovation from the crowd. Dream shook off the rust getting only 2 points on 1 for 4 shooting but grabbed 7 boards, blocked 3 shots and picked 2 steals in only 18 minutes of action. Of course, the big news was that he made it back on the floor, which is something no one was sure would happen (espcially those of us on the BBS) in light of his recent request to be waived or traded.
Walt Williams provided the next bit of fun when he was tossed in the second quarter after picking up his second foul and arguing with the ref quickly drawing a pair of T's and an early trip to the showers. According to my lip reading skills, he considered the referees calls something akin to cow manure and referred to the ref's mother in a way I'd rather not repeat.
The other moment was a bit more fun and actually included a made basket - go figure. After a botched offensive set, the ball went flying into the backcourt and Francis ran to retrieve it. Only problem was that the shot clock was at 2. Francis heaved a shot from about 54 feet and nailed it. The crowd went nuts and during the next timeout, Rudy T. and Francis could be seen laughing their asses off over the shot.
Francis finished with 24 on 10 of 24 from the field but only 2 of 10 from beyond the arc. The Franchise added 5 rebounds and 4 assists but turned the ball over 5 times.
Cuttino Mobley pitched in 22 of his own but only on 8-20 shooting while grabbing 7 rebounds. Since Mobley joined the starting lineup 10 games ago, he is racking up some very odd stats. He is averaging 21 points per contest including that huge 41-point outburst against Golden State but he is shooting only 39% from the field in those same 10 games.
Even more strange is the fact that he is deadlier from beyond the arc than inside it hitting 14 of 35 three's in the last 10 games for 40%.
Tonight, however, Anderson brought his 'A' game and was all over the floor. He played a workman-like 49 minutes, had 16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks.
The Sixers countered with league MVP candidate, Allen Iverson, who dropped 32 on the Rocks but only shot 9 of 23. He bailed himself out, however, going 12 of 15 from the charity stripe including 8 for 8 in the first quarter. He was the Sixers only "Answer" on offense because the rest of the team's shooting eye was not with them. Aaron McKie went 3-16 for only 10 points while overgrown softie Tony Kukoc went 4 for 9 with only 8 points.
The saving grace for Philly was the rebounding and defense of Tyrone Hill, Theo Ratliff and George Lynch. The trio combined for 36 rebounds (19 from Hill alone) and 7 blocks (5 from Ratliff). Their tenacious play in the fourth and overtime periods was too much for the Rockets.
Despite shooting 25% in the fourth with 7 turnovers and giving up an 8-point lead, the Rockets battled back to force an overtime. OT, however, was all Philly.
The offensive rebounding of Hill and Lynch killed Houston in the extra frame. The score was close but only because of some last-minute heaves by the Cat and Shandon. Besides the desperation shots, the Rockets were on the outside looking in.
Philly came into the game 18-4 on the road.
Sixers coach, Larry Brown was an assitant to Rudy T. at last summer's Olympic Games.
A very cold start for both teams. Rockets shot 23% from the field in 1st and Philly shot 30%.
Theo Ratliff, who is leading the league in blocks at just under 4 per game had a Dream-like block of Mo Taylor on a dunk attempt in the first.
Hakeem entered the game with 4:31 left in the first to cheers from the Compaq Center crowd.
Iverson went to the line 8 times in the first hitting all of them.
The highlight of the first half was Francis' 54-foot bomb with the shot clock running out!
Rockets with only 5 turnovers to Philly's 10 in the first half. The Rockets had 8 points off of the 76ers turnovers while the Sixers had ZERO.
Both teams began the second half with a run - Rockets 7-0 followed by a 5-0 run by the Sixers.
Rockets shot 52% in 3rd quarter and beat Philly 27 to 19.
Sixers went 7 minutes in the 4th w/o being whistled for a foul.
Rockets went 5 minutes w/o a FG shooting 25% with 7 turnovers.
Mobley got the last 4 points in regulation and blocked Aaron McKie's 3-point heave at the buzzer to force OT.
The OT could be summed up by this play...
With 2 seconds left on the shot clock, the Sixers inbounded the ball to Iverson who missed and Tyrone Hill got his 17th rebound. That turned into a foul by Francis on Iverson who missed both free throws but Hill again got the offensive board and put back.
Despite big three's by Anderson, Mobley and Francis in the OT, McKie sealed the game with 4 freethrows.