The flop was stopped.
Facing a 12-game regular season losing streak against the Jazz that spans back to the latter half of 1996-97, the Rockets kicked the Jazz 99-90 in the Compaq Center.
As the final seconds ticked off, the crowd gave the Rockets a much-deserved standing ovation.
It's the Rockets' third straight stunning upset. The Blazers and Sonics on the road followed by Utah.
As for longtime clutchcity.net fanatics who have been with us those entire 3-4 years, you know we've been waiting for this for a long time. Our hatred for the Jazz knows no bounds, so Lotto Race or not, this is sweet.
Steve Francis shook off early struggles and destroyed John Stockton in the third quarter, scoring 13 of his 26 points. He hit 4-5 from long range and also handed out 7 assists to go with 5 boards.
Stockton still played well, just 3 assists shy of a triple double: 23 points, 7 assists and a career high 16 flops. I've never seen more telegraphed flops in my life. Francis' quickness was so scary Stockton was flopping in the wrong direction at times.
It was Walt Williams who got the Rockets going, scoring 14 of his 21 in the first period and finishing with 7-10 shooting (2-3 from three-point territory). Wizard is just in a zone...
The Rockets as a team hit 13-28 from three-point range (46.8%), compared to 1-10 from the Jazz. The Rockets held the Jazz to less than 38% shooting.
Cuttino Mobley was big in the second half, just torching Howard Eisley, and finished with 16 points. Shandon Anderson struggled shooting the ball (3-11), but still managed 13 points and 6 boards.
Kenny Thomas couldn't put the ball in the hole (0-6), but grabbed 12 boards before being ejected in the fourth quarter for his second tech for shoving Karl Malone (20 points, 5 boards), who was throwing his weight around with some elbows... as usual.
Malone wondered what the Rockets' record would be like if they played this way all season. "I think the last week or so they have been playing like they should have played all year. Of course, they get ready to play us. If you look at the way they played, you'd say, what if they had played like that all year?"
Moochie Norris' box score (7 points and 3 assists) wouldn't reflect his big contribution, Kelvin Cato added 7 points and 7 boards and Matt Bullard hit two big three-pointers.
As for Olden Polynice, he is one of those rare athletes that actually needs a nasty bandage going across the bridge of his nose to improve his appearance. Damn that boy is scary ugly.
Rehashing the game
The Rockets couldn't buy a bucket early, missing their first 7 shots. The Jazz took a 6-0 lead behind Bryon Russell (16 points, 10 boards), who scored all 6 of their points.
That was when Walt Williams snapped the Rockets out of it. Wizard scored 7 quick points: A fast break layup, top of the key three and a 14-foot fadeaway and it was 8-7 Utah.
Walt was torching Howard Eisley... after a top of the key jumper the Rockets took their first lead 16-14, and Walt has 13 points.
After a reverse jam by Cato, capping a 16-4 run, the Rockets had a 23-16 edge. The first quarter horn sounded at 23-18, and Walt had 14 of the Rockets' 23 (4-6 shooting in the period).
Midway through the second after Kenny Thomas tipped and missed twice tough shots in the paint, Moochie got the board and nailed a short baseline jumper in Greg Ostertag's mug that had Rudy T on his feet with a smile. The Rockets led 34-26.
Francis hit his first field goal with 3:20 to go before the half and the Rocks led 36-28. 'Chise then stroked a three and it was 39-30, then Walt and Cat each followed suit with long balls and it was 45-32 Rockets.
The scoring ended with a Stockton three... 45-35 Rockets at the half.
NBC highlighted how Walt had 17 at half while the entire Jazz starting lineup had 25 points. Mobley had 8 points at the break and Kenny Thomas had 9 boards. Both teams shot poorly. The Jazz were hitting 33.3% of their shots while the Rockets were striking at a 36.8% clip.
After a Cato shot and a Shandon slash to the hoop, the Rockets led 51-37.
After one dead ball whistle, Stockton flopped as Francis was running in and drew a technical from Steve as a result. Francis blew right by Stockton for the hoop on the next play.
But Utah came back. After Polynice hit 1-2 free throws it was 58-50 Rockets, but Walt hit a long jumper (21 points on 7-9 shooting at this stage) then Francis a three and it was 65-53 Rockets with 5:08 left in the third. After Francis bingoed another three right in Stockton's face, it was 68-57 Rockets.
The Rockets went cold and so did the fan noise .... Houston couldn't buy a bucket and Utah, behind Karla, ran off 6 straight to trim the lead to 5. But Francis hit another three (again square in the pasty gangster's face) with the shot clock running down.
It ignited the team.
Stockton, feeling embarrassed, ran down and threw up a quick three to retaliate and deflate the fans but it bricked. Shandon was fouled on the break and made two freebies. Bullard then nailed a three off a feed from Moochie and the lead was back up to 76-63. Armon Gilliam (9 points) scored 4 points before the end of the period to make it 76-67 heading into the fourth quarter.
Francis scored 13 of his 19 points at this point in the third. He hit 5-9 shots in the period, including 3 three-pointers.
To start the fourth Moochie dished an 'oop to Cat, who burned Howard Eisley, getting the bucket and foul to increase the lead to 12. Cat then blew right by Eisley (again) and Ostertag to make it 81-67. Moochie got fouled on a fast break and made both free throws, then a Moochie baseline three off some sweet passing made it 86-69 Rockets.
Kenny Thomas got kicked out of the game with 6+ minutes to go after fouling Malone. Malone threw the elbow and pushed KT, who retaliated with a shove. Malone walked away with the innocent act, and KT was tossed. Typical Jazz BS.
It cost the Rockets. The tech followed by two Malone FTs made it 87-77 Rockets. After an Ostertag three-point play the Rockets led 89-80 with 4:30 to go. Mobley responded with a long jumper to bump it back to 11, but Stockton scored a quick bucket to get it back to 9. After another Stockton jumper it was 91-84 with just over 3 minutes to go.
But Francis nailed 2 free throws and Shandon 2 more to put it out of reach for the Jazz. Francis would foul out with less than a minute to go, but it didn't matter.
He had done enough damage.