This certainly isn't the same team that lost to the Golden State Warriors at home.
The Rockets, two days removed from knocking off the Lakers and proving they can play with the more talented teams, took the sting out of the Charlotte Hornets 99-83 Tuesday night in the Compaq Center.
It's the Rockets second win in a row and improves their record to 18-27.
The points of the evening were provided by the "Dos Amigos", Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. Geez, do these two guys get along or what? I mean you could tell in training camp the pair had hit it off, but you can really tell now Franchise and Cat want to be teammates for a long, long time.
Mobley was awesome down the stretch, at one point running off 7 quick points to take some of the noise out of Charlotte. He finished with 23 points in just 27 minutes, hitting 9-15 to go with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Player of the Game? Oh definitely.
Francis put up some very nice numbers, but struggled shooting the ball, connecting on 7 of 24 shots. Overall he still compiled 22 points, 7 boards, 8 assists and 5 steals.
Walt Williams also played well, hitting both the threes he took and scoring 14 points in just 23 minutes.
The "Towers", Hakeem Olajuwon and Kelvin Cato, combined for 16 points and 16 rebounds in 37 minutes between the two of them. Cato also added a pair of blocks and a steal.
For the second straight game, the Rockets defense rose to the occasion (Charlotte shot under 37%)... led by Shandon Anderson. So often people overlook a players' game if the box doesn't show big numbers. Sure Anderson had 6 points, 5 boards and 6 assists, but it was his defense on Eddie Jones (20 points, 7-22 shooting) that gave a tremendous boost on the defensive side of the floor.
Matt Bullard connected on 3-5 from long range for 9 points total and recorded 3 blocks. Good gosh. Kenny Thomas finished with 6 points, 7 boards, 3 assists and one massive slam.
The most amazing stat of the game? The Rockets committed just 8 turnovers, and would force 15 form Charlotte. Very good news.
The highlight of the first quarter came from Francis - Walt missed a double pump driving shot and Franchise came flying in to slam home the miss (and put a little gravy on it).
After two drives to the hoop by Shandon Anderson, the Rockets led 22-13, but Charlotte ran off 4 straight to cut the lead to 5. The Rockets would respond with an 8-0 closing run - two Bullard threes and a Shandon to Kenny fast break layup.
After one: Rockets 30, Hornets 17.
Mobley came out in the second to score 4 straight points, then some beautiful ball movement saw Walt make a smooth pass down low to Kenny Thomas for a vicious slam. The run ended there at 14-0.
Brad Miller picked up a three-point play, cutting the Rockets lead to 38-24 and after two Cato free throw misses, Eddie Jones nailed a quick jumper and the lead was 12. Walt Williams nailed a three though to cool the mini-rally.
After Eddie Robinson (12 points) hit a short jumper in transition, the lead was down to 9 (47-38). Robinson again, this time a slam on a fast break, cut the lead to 7.
At the buzzer before the half, Brad Miller went up for a one-handed dunk and Walt Williams came from the weak side to block the shot. It took about 3-4 minutes to register in my mind that Walt Williams was blocking a 7'0 center. 51-44 Rockets.
After the Hornets trimmed the lead to as much as 4, the Rockets bumped the lead back to 10, 65-55, after a Francis 16-footer.
Killer play in transition saw Shandon feed to Francis, but he had the pass blocked by rookie Baron Davis (the pick right after Francis in the 1999 NBA Draft -- he finished with 14 points and 5 assists before fouling out) and bounce right back to Shandon for a layup. 69-58 Houston.
Didn't last long. Eddie Jones scored 5 straight then Baron Davis put down a fast break layup, and like that Charlotte was within 4.
Hakeem scored a deuce then Shandon threw an 'oop on the run to an "out of nowhere" Francis for a violent dunk. Rockets again in transition, ending with Mobley tipping in a Francis missed reverse. It was like that for most of the evening -- each time Charlotte got within 4 the Rockets would bounce back.
Brad Miller however scored a dunk just as the buzzer sounded (replays would show it was after time expired), and the Rockets led 75-69 after three.
Hakeem scored quickly then Francis broke free for 2 and the lead was bumped back to 10. Cuttino Mobley was big in the fourth. He was pulling up for jumpers and attacking the basket.
The Rockets led 90-82 with just over 3 minutes to go. With 2:22 to go Cato broke free of Derrick Coleman for a slam and the lead was bumped up to 10.
Francis then nailed a jumper, increasing the lead to 12 with 1:30 to go. Mobley another jumper and then Francis found Mobley on the break for a sweet alleyoop that put the cherry on the victory sundae.
The Rockets were dancing and celebrating once again.