Almost stole the honey out of the Hive.
The Rockets came on strong in the second half and led midway through the fourth quarter, but the Hornets proved too strong down the stretch and defeated the Rockets 102-97 in the Charlotte Coliseum.
The loss is the Rockets' third straight and drops their record to 21-33.
Derrick Coleman was one of the big reasons the Rockets' slide reached 3. Coleman had 19 points, 8 boards and 4 assists... in the first half! He finished with 32, 12 and 5 assists. He hit 14-22... not much the Rocks could do as Tubby was in the zone.
The rookies were the big bright spot for the Rockets.
Both Kenny Thomas and Steve Francis started and played 45 minutes each. Thomas hit 9-15 shots for 20 points, 8 boards and 2 steals while Francis connected on 9-20 (4-11 from three-point range) for 24 points, 8 assists, 6 boards and a pair of steals.
Combine that with Cuttino Mobley and you're looking at the Rockets' future.
Mobley drained 7-15 shots for 15 points in 24 minutes off the pine. In the fourth quarter, playing some serious street ball (and having some fun), Mobley nearly led the Rockets to victory. One running heave, over Chucky Brown (uh oh, don't want to hack off the CBFanClub) with the shot clock winding down, was just magic.
Walt Williams scored 9 points, Matt Bullard 7 and Hakeem Olajuwon, Shandon Anderson and Carlos Rogers each scored 6.
Anderson, combining with Mobley, played some good defense (again) on All-Star Eddie Jones, who shot just 7-22 when they played in Houston and just 3-13 for 9 points tonight.
Charlotte came out hot. After sandwiching a 7-0 and 6-0 run around 4 Rocket points, the Hornets raced out to a 22-9 lead. Kenny Thomas is the one who kept the Rockets within reach early, pounding inside and taking nice feeds underneath for layups. He finished with 8 in the quarter.
The Hornets led 27-20 after one.
Coleman continued his scoring assault, but Francis turned it on and delivered two slams that brought out the oohs and ahhs from the Hive. Still, the Hornets had built a 53-44 at halftime. Francis had 13.
The Hornets led 57-47 early in the third but the Rocks didn't crumble. Kenny Thomas banged home a tough layup, Hakeem got the roll on a top-of-the-key jumper and Francis hit a three, and just like that the Rockets trailed by 1, 59-58. Francis then hit another three, giving him 19 points, and then led the break and found 'Los for a hook and the Rockets had the lead 65-63 -- their first lead since 5-4.
A Kenny Thomas three, then another jumper (giving him 20 points) made it 74-71 Rocks, but the Hornets closed with 4 straight to lead 75-74 through three.
Play of the night: After Mobley drained two tough jumpers, he led the break driving on Chucky Brown. Cat slowed up and turned the opposite direction away from the basket as if he was going to get into the halfcourt set, but instead fired a no-look bounce pass to a streaking Rogers who took two strides and slammed it home with 2 hands.
Damn, it was sweet. Rockets led 80-79.
Francis then nailed his fourth three of the night, and after two misses and two offensive boards, Mobley attacked Elden Campbell, bounced off some contact and got the double pump layup to fall. Rockets led 85-81 with 7:57 left.
However, that was it for the Rockets. They hit a wall and couldn't capitalize on several opportunities. The Hornets took advantage -- after tying the game at 89, they ran off 5 straight to lead 94-89... a lead they wouldn't relinquish.