Steve Nash was simply en fuego down the stretch.
The Rockets led 73-69 late before Nash exploded, finishing with 15 points in the final 8 minutes of the game, as the Mavericks beat the Rockets 95-91 in Dallas Thursday night.
The loss dropped the Rockets record to 15-31 on the year.
Nash and Steve Francis dueled big time in the second half. Francis, who finished with 30 points, scored 21 in the second half. While his second half was awesome, his first half was atrocious ... turnover city and he couldn't get he team going as the Rockets shot a combined 33% in the first half.
In fact, by early third quarter the Rocks were still getting taken to school and were about to get blown out of the building, but they showed guts and heart to get back in this one. After Stevie picked up his fourth foul with just under 6 minutes left in the third, Rudy T opted to stick with him.
It was a great move.
Francis exploded for 13 points, including a pair of triples, in the period and sparked a monster 14-2 run as the Rockets tied the game heading in to the fourth at 63.
Perhaps even more impressive is Kelvin Cato, who absolutely used and abused Shawn Bradley in this one. Cato was 7-9 from the floor and I swear all 7 of his buckets were dunks. In fact I'm pretty sure of it. A season-high 18 points for Kelvin, to go with another team-high in boards (15). Considering Michael Olowokandi is kicking tail lately in ClipperVille, I'd say 2002 is the year of the underachieving center.
While Eddie Griffin couldn't have thrown a pebble in to the ocean on this night (4-15 from the floor), he was fantastic defensively. Career high 7 blocked shots, some of which came against Dirk Nowitzki (6-20 shooting), and also grabbed 12 boards. On one play the 7-foot Nowitzki pump-faked Griffin in to the air, and once Griff bit, Dirk went for the easy jumper... but like a spring, Griffin leaped immediately after coming back down and had a clean stop of Dirk's shot. Kid has serious shot blocking instincts. The Dallas announcer drooled over Griffin's prospects... but then again this is the same guy who described a Tim Hardaway steal as being like a "Venetian Fly Trap".
Boards and defense killed the Rockets. Juwan Howard grabbed 16 boards, including 9 offensive. Juwan Howard! Dallas had a 20-13 edge on the offensive glass. Meanwhile, Houston could force just 6 Maverick turnovers.
Cuttino Mobley scored 15 points before fouling out late and Kenny Thomas added 12.