With a showdown in Dallas looming against the Midwest-leading Mavericks on Thursday, the Rockets put on an ugly performance Tuesday night.
But it was still good enough for the win.
Cuttino Mobley led the Rockets with 19 points, and hit some key baskets in the fourth to thwart a Cavs rally as the Rockets beat Cleveland 97-80 in the Compaq Center, improving to 6-3 as they head to face the 11-0 Mavericks.
Cat took some risky shots in the fourth, but just kept making them as the Cavs, who whittled a 14-point lead down to 2 late in the third, were threatening to take the lead. Cuttino hit 9-17 shots to go with 4 assists. Mobley's three-stroke may not be working too well this season (0-3 tonight, under 30% on the season), but he was hitting the mid-range jay.
The real eye-opener was Eddie Griffin however. Eddie came to play tonight, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 boards, including 4 offensive. On one play Eddie crashed the offensive boards to get a Rocket miss, put it back in under heavy traffic in the post and got the foul call. Nice.
And of course the reason that half of China is bringing the BBS server to its knees: Yao Ming. In 18 minutes of play, Yao had 9 points, 6 boards and a pair of blocks. He had a couple of nice reverse slams after losing his defenders with headfakes, and he nearly caught and threw down an alleyoop pass (that he wasn't ready for) from Mobley in the fourth that would have brought down the house. He hit 4-5 shots, which means in his last 5 games he's shooting an unreal 91.3% from the floor (21-23 shots).
I don't care if Ally McBeal is guarding him: 90% of today's NBA centers can't hit 21 of 23 shots by themselves in practice.
The few times he was up against Zydrunas Ilgauskas (spellcheck please) he did well. Ilgauskas finished with 24 points and 7 boards to pace Cleveland.
Steve Francis was one short of his season-high in assists, dishing out 8 to go with 18 points and 6 boards, though he did cough it up 6 times as well. Both he (43 minutes) and Mobley (44) continue to log heavy time, with Moochie Norris (9 minutes) looking to be the odd man out this season.
I almost forgot about Jason Collier, who started and finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Yes, that Jason Collier.
Got to love the play of Maurice Taylor as well. He's looked pretty damn good since he's been back and I love the fact that he seems willing (or one of the few able) to feed Big Yao in the post. 9 points, 7 boards, 4 assists and 2 blocks for Mo.
The Rockets hit over 50% of their shots and destroyed Cleveland on the glass (48-27). Overall, it's a 'W', but the Rockets did not look sharp at times and should have put the Cavs away for good -- they never should have gotten back in to the game.
Lapses like that the Rockets won't be able to get away with in Dallas.