Watching the Rockets-Nuggets game Friday night reminded me of the first time I played the NBA Live video game.
After playing for a few minutes I turned it off because I realized I needed to learn what the controls were.
That same frustration was felt from fans who watched as two hideous-looking offenses matched up in Denver, but fortunately Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley made key plays down the stretch to help the Rockets get their first win of the season, an 83-74 win at the Pepsi Center.
Mobley scored 29 points to lead all scorers, and pretty much sealed the deal with a pick of an inbounds pass with 1:11 left in the game... and subsequently took it the other way for a slam. Francis made several hustle plays at the end, including a heads-up play where he bounced the ball out of bounds off Chris Whitney.
Francis finished with 21 points, 13 boards (whoa!) and 5 assists. Problem is between Mobley and Francis, there was a total of 9 assists, but 12 turnovers (including 7 by Francis).
The rookie of the night was not Yao Ming, but Juaquin Hawkins. The 29-year old rook made some clutch plays, finishing with 7 points, 3 of which came from a big triple. I can honstly say he looked good out there. Drew an offensive foul coming around a pick and seemed to work well with Mobley and Francis. Maybe the right decision was made to let go of Oscar Torres - time will tell.
Ming played limited minutes again, but made just 1-5 shots. Damn was the one he made nice though. It was a 12-13 foot turnaround jumper working on Nene Hilario, and he drained it. He grabbed 7 boards, and atleast 2 of his misses were on attempted putbacks on the glass. Still has a ways to go though.
The bad news though was Eddie Griffin looked awful again. A 3-12 shooting night means he's now 4-23 (17.4%) from the floor this season. His jumper doesn't look soft and seems rushed and his presence hasn't been too strong in the first two games. Having Maurice Taylor and Kenny Thomas back will be a shot in the arm.
It wasn't just Eddie though. The Rockets as a team shot just over 37% from the floor, and Moochie Norris was 0-6 and atleast 3 of those shots were wide open outside jumpers.
But if we thought we had it bad, does anyone even know who the Denver Nuggets are? Granted Camby and Howard are out, but sweet Moses this team started Whitney, Ryan Bowen, Mark Blount, James Posey and Lorinza Harrington. These are the starters and they actually ask fans with a straight face to pay to watch them. Is this the Rocky Mountain Revue?
Cuttino Mobley nailed his first three shots and Bostjan Nachbar drained a trey and the Rockets got the early 15-10 lead in Denver. But Nikoloz Tskitishvili nailed a triple, then ran the length of the court for a layin and it was tied up at 15.
Yao Ming came in to the game at the 3:44 mark of the first. Early on he had a nice assist in transition udnerneath to Jason Collier for a dunk, and also got a block near the end of the first. When Collier hit a long jumper, and Francis followed that up with a three bomb at the buzzer of the first quarter, the Rockets led 29-23.
To start the second, Ming was rejected by Nene Hilario, but Ming followed that with his first NBA bucket in a regular season game: a sweet 12-foot fadeaway in the post against Hilario. Nothing but net.
The Rockets could never really pull away though and let the Nuggets hang around. At halftime: Rockets 40, Nuggets 38.
Mobley and Francis each led the Rockets with 9 while Jason Collier had 6 points and 5 boards in extended minutes. I liked his hustle at times tonight -- looked better than the typical Collier performance. Terrible shooting for both teams. 34.1% for the Rockets and 34.9% for the Nuggets.
The third wasn't any prettier. There were some nice highlights, namely when Francis found Cato underneath for a vicious slam, Juaquin Hawkins hit a nice 17-foot jumper and Eddie Griffin rejected badly a drive by Hilario, but neither team could put the ball in the hole very often.
Mobley hit free throws with a few seconds left in the quarter, but Kenny Satterfield hit a shot at the buzzer, and still the Rockets couldn't put any distance between then and Denver. 56-53 Houston heading in to the fourth.
Yao Ming came out to start the fourth, but was not much of a factor early. After Francis hit a tough baseline jumper, the Rockets eld 58-53, but 7 straight Nuggets points got the crowd excited and the Rockets behind by 2.
Houston came back though. When Mobley found Hawkins for a long jumper, then Francis hit a short jumper and got fouled, the Rockets led 69-65. On a fast break, Hawkins whipped it to Mobley for a wide open triple and it was 72-65 Rockets.
When Francis found Hawkins for a triple with 2:24 left, Houston led 77-69. With 1:11 left, Mobley made a nice, heads-up play on an inbounds pass, picked it off and went the other way for a slam. 79-71 Rockets.
Tskitishvili hit a jumper, and after a Rocket miss, Satterfield tried to bring down the house with a rim-rattling slam with 26 seconds left, but he missed. The Nuggets fouled Mobley, and he made both.