Holy balls the Rockets own the East.
Even without Cuttino Mobley, who sat out the game with a sore ankle, Houston continued its domination of the East behind the play of its guards, crushing the Bucks in Milwaukee 108-91.
The win is the Rockets second straight and 10th in their last 12 games. The Rockets improved to 5 games over .500 at 32-27.
The Rockets have not only crushed the East teams, but they've done it to the best of the East in their place. 112-87 in Philadelphia, 101-90 in Miami, 76-75 in New York, 110-97 in Charlotte, 101-89 in Indiana, 103-90 in Detroit, 100-95 in Cleveland, 110-91 in Toronto... the Rockets are now 20-4 against the Eastern Conference an a whopping 13-0 against the Central Division.
Oh what I would pay to change conferences.
Meanwhile we had to tolerate the Bucks' announcers on league pass, who called the refs "weak" in this one for some calls against the Bucks then had the audacity to call the Rockets' style of play "garbage basketball" when they were down by 20. Yo... scoreboard, bi-otch.
Steve Francis was amazing, scoring 29 points, 8 assists, 6 boards, 3 steals and 1 4-point play. He nailed 3-4 from downtown, played Ironman minutes (45) and did not disappoint. With Cat on the pine, Francis showed his leadership skills by stepping up big time.
But it was Shandon Anderson who really shined in Mobley's absence.
Shandon popped off for 19 of his 21 through three quarters and added 8 boards and 5 assists. His hustle and energy was amazing -- he held Ray Allen (who popped off for 42 the other day) to 15 points on 6-15 shooting. Anderson is now averaging 16 points and 6 boards in his last 3 games.
Maurice Taylor was questionable going in to the game with tendinitis, but he provided the answers with 14 points, 5 boards and 5 assists.
Walt Williams and Hakeem Olajuwon also played key roles, scoring 13 a piece. Moochie Norris stepped up off the bench with 10 points and 5 assists.
Retro Rock Sam Cassell led the Bucks with 23 points and 9 assists while Glenn Robinson had 19.
Behind Shandon Anderson the Rockets darted out to a 9-2 lead but the Bucks came roaring back. After Sam Cassell nailed a baseline 8-footer, the game was all knotted up at 15.
But a 9-0 burst -- three-point play by Francis and back-to-back threes by Shandon and Francis -- put the Rockets up 26-17.
After Mo found Shandon underneath with a gorgeous feed, the Rockets led 30-19 and had a 30-23 advantage after one. Francis and Shandon each had 10 points to lead the Rockets while Glenn Robinson led the Bucks with 8.
The Rockets kept the heat on in the second period, and after Francis drained another three, Houston led 43-31. When Hakeem worked over Darvin Ham for a layup, then Walt drained a triple, the Rockets led 50-37 and George Karl and the Bucks had no choice but to call timeout.
After Hakeem picked a steal, Shandon converted on the other end with a tough layup and it was 54-39.
At the end of the half: Rockets 57, Bucks 45.
With Mobley gone, Shandon Anderson got the PT and excelled, hitting 6-8 shots for 14 points and holding Ray Allen (4-10 shooting) to just 2 of his 9 points in the second period. Francis led all scorers with 18 points and handed out 4 assists. Mo Taylor had 8.
After Shandon Anderson was fouled on a three and made all 3 freebies, then Moochie nailed a long jumper, the Rockets led 69-51.
But the Bucks responded with a 10-4 run, capped by a Jason Caffey drive, and the Rockets called timeout to stop Milwaukee's momentum.
The Bucks cut the lead to 10, but Francis got mugged on a three and drained it, going to the line. An AWFUL CALL by the refs tried to make it a 2-pointer (it was a CLEAR three) but after discussion they reversed it. Francis' free throw capped the 4-point play. 79-65 Rockets.
Cassell responded with a shot then Glenn Robinson nailed a three and Houston called timeout, up just 9 at 79-70.
Mo got an offensive board off a Shandon miss and put it back in and after Hakeem scored on a cut to the hoop, the Rockets led 83-70.
Mo Taylor took off, hitting a pair of free throws and a long jumper. After Mo missed a long jumper with 10 seconds left in the third, the Bucks got the board falling out of bounds and passed it out. Hakeem swiped it, put it up, missed, got his own board and nailed a 10-foot fadeaway.
With Hakeem smiling and running back upcourt, the Rockets took a 93-75 lead heading in to the fourth quarter. Francis had 26 points and 8 assists through three while Shandon Anderson had 19 points and 6 boards. Mo had 14, Hakeem 13 and Walt 11.
No letdown. Kenny Thomas made a bucket and foul (lane violation on the free throw) and when Moochie Norris nailed a near impossible 18-footer with he shot clock running down, the Rockets had a 100-81 lead with over 8 minutes left in the game.
The game was never close the rest of the way.