Kelvin Cato had been struggling.
I said had been.
The Rocket center busted out Saturday night to the tune of 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Rockets got their first post-Charles Barkley win, beating the Boston Celtics 100-94 in the Compaq Center.
The win snaps a 5-game losing streak for the Rockets.
But the story was Cato, who unbelievably hit his first 11 shots from the field, finishing 11-13 for 27 points, establishing a new career high (his previous career-high was 23 points, which he scored in Phoenix earlier this season). His 12 rebounds ties his career-high in that category.
He also picked 2 steals and blocked a shot. All this off the bench playing behind Thomas Hamilton (12 minutes, 0 points, 4 boards, 2 blocks)
On one particular play Cuttino Mobley penetrated the lane and just threw it up to Cato, who came hard baseline and slammed home the alleyoop something fierce.
But no alleyoop was nastier than the one Shandon Anderson threw to him from the three-point line. I actually raced to ESPN to catch it and they had to show it twice it was that nasty. Anderson threw up the lob and Boston's Tony Battie leaped high to intercept it ... but Cato just flat out outjumped his ass, took the ball and practically tore down the rim.
I mean intense doesn't describe it.
The problem with Cato is you never know which guy is going to show up apparently. Obviously if he played like this every night he'd be a future Hall of Famer, but it appears Rudy is trying to teach him that he has to bring the intensity every night -- possibly the reason for the benching. Hopefully the message has been hammered home.
Cato still has skilled he needs to develop -- like a solid jumper or turnaround shot -- but his athleticism is flat-out scary.
Carlos Rogers also had a fantastic game. Carlos hit 7 of 9 shots for 17 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes.
So if I tallied that correctly -- two guys from the Scottie Pippen deal hit 18-22 shots from the field for 44 points and 17 boards. Not bad.
Speaking of Mobley, the guy continues to shoot so-so from the field (6-15 from the field, less than 40% for the season), but damn if he isn't a scorer. Somehow he finds ways to get points. Mobley hit 2-4 from beyond the arc and 7-11 from the free throw line to finish with 21 points, 3 boards and a pair of assists.
So what about Steve Francis? Hey, nice to see the youngin' not feel like he has to put up 20 shots (not that I'm complaining mind you). Francis was 3-8 from the field (primarily because he was getting fouled and going to the line) and 9-10 from the free throw line to finish with 15 points, 6 boards and 4 assists.
Don't let Shandon Anderson get lost in the shuffle. He may have hit just 3-11 from the field, but he led the team in assists (6), grabbed 7 boards and finished with 8 points.
The Rockets trailed 23-19 after one thanks in large part to nine turnovers in the quarter. Carlos' 7 points led the Rocks at that point while Kenny Anderson led the Celtics with 8 points.
The Rockets then got rolling in the second quarter thanks to Cato, who hit 6-6 shots for 12 points in the period, finishing the half at 7-7 from the field for 14 points and 4 boards. Only 2 turnovers in the quarter as the Rocks led 45-39 at the break.
Didn't take long for the Celtics to re-take the lead. They started the fourth on a 10-3 run and led 49-48.
From there the Rockets outscored the Celtics 36-18 over the next 12-13 minutes, bumping their lead up to 17 points.
Then the Rockets realized it was the fourth quarter at this point and the Celtics trimmed the lead down to 6 with over 5 minutes to go. However, Cat made two free throws, Francis made 2 more than a Cat three-pointer boosted the lead to 13. The Celtics would put another scare in, cutting the lead to 6 with just under 2 minutes to go, but the Rocks had enough gas to hold on.