For some reason this season, the rookie-filled LA Clippers are a bear of a matchup for the Rockets.
Even without Lamar Odom, who was suspended for drugs, the Clippers made the Rockets look silly... through three quarters that is.
The fourth was another story.
Steve Francis put up 22 points, a massive 15 boards and dished 8 assists as the Rockets turned a 13-point late third quarter deficit in to a 99-87 win over the Clippers in Houston.
The win ups the Rockets record to 6 games over .500 at 34-28 and is their 12th win in their last 15 games.
Francis was fantastic, hitting 9-19 shots, getting teammates involved, and leading the team in boards. We've got to remember here -- this is a 6'3" POINT GUARD going in with the trees and snaring 15 boards -- 5 offensive.
'Chise is just rabid... all over the joint. His performance means he is now averaging an even 20 points per game.
Maurice Taylor had a monster game as well, and doing it against his former team, posting 21 points and 9 boards in just 27 minutes of action.
I can't harp on it enough how poorly both Cuttino Mobley and Walt Williams shot from the field in this game. Awful. Pitiful. Atrocious.
I also can't tell you how big they were in the fourth quarter.
Mobley was much bigger. He may be the only dude alive who can shoot 4-15 from the floor and still manage to score 22 points. Mobley scored 6 points in the first period and was scoreless in the next two quarters, going 1-10 from the field through three. He was well on his way to "GOT ROCKED" city.
But he didn't miss from the free throw line. All game.
Mobley was 14-14 from the line (holy kitty!) and scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to fuel the Rockets' comeback. Only he could shoot less than 27% from the field and still make a play for "Player of the Game".
Walt didn't have that big of a performance, shooting just 4-13 for 11 points, but his baseline trey with just under 2 minutes to go put Houston up 8, broke the backs of the Clippers and put it away for the Rockets.
But if we're talking 4th quarter sparks, do not forget Carlos Rogers.
Carlos made Rudy look foolish for not playing him all season, and quite frankly, when Carlos plays, when doesn't he make the lack of playing time look foolish? His hustle in the fourth was a big factor, though the box wouldn't reflect it too much. 5 points, 2 boards an an assist.
Kelvin Cato played decent in the absence of Hakeem Olajuwon, who will also miss the Warriors game with a severely bruised calf muscle. Cato scored 9 points and grabbed 5 boards.
Jeff McInnis led the Clippers with 20 points while Corey Maggette scored 19 to go with 12 boards.
Maurice Taylor missed the Hawks game with tendinitis flare-up, but he returned to action against the Clips... thanksfully. Mo hit 3-4 shots in the first period, scoring 8 points, while Steve scored 6, grabbed 4 boards and dished 4 assists as the Rockets took a 28-21 lead after one.
The Rockets scored quickly to start the second, but from there it fell apart:
The Clippers, sparked by Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson, ran off 12 consecutive points and took a 33-30 lead. After Corey Maggette nailed a 10-foot jumper the Clippers led 38-33 and the Rockets offensive shutdown was starting to get a tad embarrassing.
Things were just going badly for the Rockets. After a Clippers miss, Mo Taylor snared a board and threw the outlet to Walt Williams. One problem. Walt was running the other way and not looking for a pass. It bounced off the back of his foot and to the Clippers. After a few passes, Mo got the board again and passed the outlet to Moochie.
One problem. Moochie wasn't looking for it. Pass just drifted out of bounds.
Clippers missed again and Mo got the board again. This time he passed it to Cuttino who actually caught it. Sarcastic cheers filled the Compaq Center... it was that kind of quarter.
Francis capped the first half scoring with a tough fadeaway turnaround in the paint, bringing the Rockets to within one at 45-44.
The first and second periods were night and say for Houston. The first period the Rockets shot over 58% (11-16) while in the second the bricked 16 of their 21 shots (23.8%). Francis meanwhile wasn't struggling, scoring 13 points, 8 boards and 5 assists. Mo Taylor had 10 and 6 boards. Cuttino on the other hand missed 5 of his 6 shots.
Corey Maggette led the Clips with 11.
The fans got a little restless early in the third.... the Clippers jumped out to a 10-4 run, taking a 55-48 lead, and the Rockets continued to look lifeless.
It got flat out embarrassing. After Jeff McGinnis scored again, giving him 14 points, it was 68-57 Clippers. Michael Olowokandi scored 4 more points and it was 72-59 Los Angeles.
When the damage was done in the third, the Clippers had outscored the Rockets 31-23 in the period and led 76-67 heading in to the fourth. Mo Taylor led the Rockets with 21 points and 9 boards while Francis had 18, 10 and 6 assists. Cuttino Mobley was a miserable 1-10 from the field for 6 points (all in the first period).
Mobley got the Rockets started off right in the fourth. He picked the ball from Keyon Dooling and was fouled on a clear path violation while running the break. He hit the free throw, and after Steve burned Darius Miles for a jumper, the Rockets were down 77-70.
After a Clipper miss, Steve got the board and ran, finding Carlos Rogers underneath for a hoop and foul. His free throw brought the Rockets to within four, 77-73.
No one scored for a few minutes before Shandon drove aggressively to the hoop, drew the defense and found Carlos Rogers for the slam and foul. He missed the free throw, but the Rockets defensive intensity picked up as the crowd got in to it.
The Rockets forced a Maggette missed jumper, and on the other end Cuttino drove to the hoop for a deuce, tying the game at 77 with 7:14 to go. Crowd going nuts (finally). Timeout Clippers with 7:14 to go.
Francis then ran on a break, faked a pass and made a gorgeous layup, giving the Rockets the lead, and after another Clippers miss (0 for their first 9 in the fourth), Mobley drove baseline, got the bucket and foul. His free throw made it 82-77 Rockets.
Maggette was fouled on a jumper, and made both free throws. It ended the Rockets 14-1 run.
With 4:20 left, Mobley made a pair of free throws making it 84-79 Rockets. When Mobley made two more free throws with over 2:30 left, it was 88-83 Rockets.
Shandon made a pair of free throws and when Walt Williams, who was having a horrendous game (2-10 from the field up to this point), nailed a back-breaking baseline three with 1:48 to go, the Rockets led 93-85.
Mobley added 2 more free throws with 1:29 to go, making it 95-85, and the Rockets had their victory.