Mooch busted out of a slump with a terrific game, hitting 8-11 shots for 22 points, 7 assists and 5 boards -- also canning both his three-point attempts. Why he didn't get the ball more is a question I don't think anyone can answer, except maybe...
Players can get in a zone at times, blocking out all distractions. Cuttino did just that, blocking out all the minor things like the fans, the coaches, the teammates, the opponents, the rim, the Sesame Street concept of sharing...
And the hits keep rolling in.
The Rockets played nip-and-tuck all night with the Blazers, but when it counted, they folded like a cheap tent, slipping to the Blazers 101-92 Tuesday night.
Amazingly enough, it is the Rockets 14th straight loss and the 18th in their last 20 games. They fall to 7-19, just a game and a half "ahead" of the league's worst record (Chicago).
Ruben Patterson did heavy damage, and it wasn't pretty: 23 points, 11 boards, 5 assists and 4 blocks. This guy is a career 11ppg scorer, but in his last 5 games against the Rockets, he has put up 23 points three times. Rudy doesn't have a Rocket who can stop him (perhaps he should try a teenage babysitter).
Rasheed Wallace equalled Patterson's scoring night with 23 of his own while Derek Anderson added 20, including the back-breaking three late in the game to ice it for the Blazers.
To add to the frustration, the Rockets played some very strong team ball early on, moving the ball around the perimeter for open looks as well as they have this season. They handed out 25 assists, ironically enough the most they've had in the last 14 games, when Steve Francis and the Rockets handed out 26 dimes against these same Blazers (the Rockets' last win).
Moochie Norris, as Calvin Murphy said, "brought his A-game", scoring 22 points on 8-11 shooting, dishing 7 assists and grabbing 5 boards. It was his best game of the season.
Also impressive was Kelvin Cato, who just flat out worked hard out there. He made all 5 of the shots he took, scored 12 points and grabbed 11 boards, including 6 offensive. Kelvin has rightfully taken a lot of heat this season, but he looked strong tonight.
That was the good news. The bad news was though they had the team concept going strong at times, it was destroyed by selfish play on several other occasions.
Cuttino Mobley shot and shot and shot and shot. It mattered not that the ball was not going in the hole... Cuttino see ball, Cuttino shoot ball. He was 9-for-28 from the field and just 1-6 from long range. Bill Worrell even said it -- "If Cuttino even has a decent shooting night, the Rockets win this game." I guess the good news for him is he increased his scoring average with the 21-point outing.
And when Mobley wasn't missing, Oscar Torres was. Torres had a rough night as well, hitting just 5-17 from the floor for 12 points. Ay, que malo.
The two put up over half the team's shots, and combined shot just 31% from the field. UGH.
Eddie Griffin got the start in place of Kenny Thomas, and the frontline of Cato and Griffin looked very good early on. Griffin's impact was felt -- he changed the Rockets' interior defense completely, and had a terrific rejection of Rasheed Wallace in the first quarter. He finished with 8 points, 6 boards and a block in 30 minutes of play.
Eddie Griffin started in the place of the injured Kenny Thomas, and the impact he had on the game was clearly visible. He shot just 1-4 for 3 points in the first, but he grabbed 4 rebounds and had one great rejection of Rasheed Wallace. He also altered several shots.
The Rockets jumped out to a 16-8 edge before a 9-2 Portland run brought the Blazers within one. But the Rocks, thanks in large part to Moochie Norris, closed on a 7-2 run to take a 27-21 lead after one.
Moochie led the Rockets with 10 points while Kelvin Cato was strong and active, scoring 6 points to go with 3 boards. Derek Anderson led Portland with 7.
The Blazers jumped out to an 8-2 run to start the second, tying the game at 29.
But the Rockets didn't relent. Kevin Willis scored the next 4 Rocket points and Terence Morris even got in to the action with a 20-footer. To close the half, Mobley scored 2 straight buckets, then Griffin nailed a three, but Ruben Patterson (11 points in the half) converted a three-point play to end the scoring.
Houston led 48-45 at half. The Rockets shot 43% from the field to the Blazers 47%. Though Mobley scored 8 points, he had an awful half, shooting just 4-15 from the floor. Moochie was 5-6 for 13 points while Willis added 8 off the bench.
Torres hit his first two shots of the third to get the Rockets off on the right foot, but the Blazers never weakened. Wallace, Patterson and Stoudamire all scored, and after Rick Brunson got a two, Portland took a 58-57 lead. Wallace followed that up with a 16-footer to make it a 3-point edge.
But Mobley found Cato underneath for a slam, then hit a 19-footer to reclaim the lead for Houston.
It stayed close from there until Portland took off on a 6-0 run to take a 5-point edge with 3 minutes remaining in the third. Cato followed up a Mobley miss and Moochie banked in a jumper to cut it to one, but Rasheed Wallace slammed one home underneath. Then Walt Williams threw a defensive board away in transition, which resulted in an immediate Wallace alleyoop slam. Then Mobley turned it over on a drive, resulting in a Patterson slam.
It was costly. After three, 80-73 Portland. Cuttino scored 8 in the period, but was just 8-23 from the floor at this stage. Moochie was smoking hot, having hit 7-10 from the floor for 20 points and 6 assists through three.
Derek Anderson scored quickly to up their lead to nine, then Mobley missed again (he's now 8-24 from the floor).
Moochie and Mobley each hit free throws and when Terence Morris found Willis for a baby hook underneath, the Rockets were down 82-79 with 8:48 to go.
But that was as close as they got. Boumtje-Boumtje tipped in a Stoudamire miss, then Wallace scored underneath on Morris. When Ruben Patterson hit a three, Rudy and the Rockets were suddenly down 10 and they had to call timeout with just over 6 minutes to go.
Morris then hit a triple, and after a tough baseline turnaround by Rasheed Wallace, Mobley and Torres each hit bombs and the Rockets and fans were back in to it. 91-88 with 4:32 to go.
Stoudamire missed and the Rockets got possession when the loose ball went out of bounds. Terence went for another haymaker, but airballed it badly, hurting some of the momentum.
Wallace then hit two free throws, and after Mobley committed a turnover (jumped to make a pass and realized in mid-air his man wasn't where he thought), Derek Anderson hit a three. Timeout Rockets, 2:53 left. 96-88 Portland.
A 24-second shot clock violation for the Rockets was next. After Portland didn't score on their end, Mobley missed another shot and that was pretty much it. When Torres missed a tough, turning shot in the lane, the Rockets were forced to start fouling... and the skid was all but at 14 games.