Apparently our Gary Payton problems are not over.
Payton, the classic role model for young, aspiring trash talking point guards, fittingly scored a career high 43 points against the Rockets, the team he's tortured for years. Gary's big night paced the Sonics to the 121-112 win in the Compaq Center, snapping the Rockets 5-game winning streak and dropping their record to 33-47.
Payton went nuts, scoring 15 points in the first and finishing the game having hit 17-31 shots from the floor. He also grabbed 11 boards (5 offensive), handed out 7 assists and picked 4 steals. This is a friggin' point guard... these are monster numbers.
Steve Francis would have a respectable evening (stay away from the turnover area of the box), scoring 20 points on 6-12, grabbing 9 boards and dishing 8 assists... but as mentioned turnovers were a problem: 9.
In fact the Rockets as a team had 22 turnovers, which led to 32 Sonic points.
Francis did have one poster style alleyoop where he flat ass outjumped Kelvin Cato for the ball and jackknifed it home. Cato started to jump and Francis basically jumped right over him and dunked it - then he got a technical for doing a chinup on the rim and slapping the backboard. As clutchcity.net's Jeff Balke described it, "Amazing. I've never seen someone only 6'3" that damn high in the air. His HEAD was well over the rim when he caught the pass. Just ridiculous."
Jeff also added, "Sources close to the situation tell me that Francis was freakin' high!"
Francis was good, but Cuttino Mobley was career high good. Career high in boards and points. Cat got the start at the 2-guard and with Walt out Shandon Anderson moved to the three. In 46 minutes Mobley scored 35 points on 14-24 from the field, including 4-8 from long range, and grabbed 9 boards.
Ouch, that's going to cost the Rockets come contract time this summer.
It was Houstonian Rashard Lewis who had a big second half, scoring all of his 15 points in the final two quarters and was instrumental down the stretch for the Sonics. Lewis, who is a free agent this offseason, had 50+ friends and family members there he had gotten tickets for. He's still young, but busting his ass each day and would look good in a Rocket uni.
Shandon scored 15 points, grabbed 7 boards and picked 3 steals while Matt Bullard also scored 15, hitting 6-9 from the floor. Moochie Norris could muster just 3-11 shooting, but finished with 9 points and dished out a game-high 10 assists.
Say it with me... "Moochie".
The Rockets hit over 50% of their shots to the Sonics 47+%, but when you take 105 shots as Seattle did it matters not.
Rehashing the game
Walt Williams would be missed early, and obviously Gary had this game marked on his calendar after getting torched by Francis in the last game. Payton scored 15 quick points in the first quarter as the Rockets were ice cold without the Wizard.... after one the Sonics had doubled the Rockets score: 38-19 Sonics.
The Rockets would respond, scoring 35 points of their own in the second quarter and trailed by just 6 at half, 60-54.
Payton finished with 23 points, 7 boards and 4 assists on 10-18 shooting in the first two periods alone. Mobley led the Rockets with 15 points (7-11 from the field) and 7 boards in 20 minutes. Bullard had 11.
Payton scored 4 more quick points early, giving him 27, and the Sonics led 66-56. Francis got a feed from Cato on a fast break however, juked Payton and slammed it home and got the foul, cutting the lead to 7.
Early in the third the Rockets had 17 turnovers.
The Sonics led 70-61 when Shammond Williams tried to drive on Kelvin Cato (big mistake)... the highlight reel "return to sender" was capped by a Shandon Anderson bucket who cut the lead to 7.
Sonics came flying back however... a Rashard Lewis short banker then an inexcusable Payton offensive board layup missed, then tapped in again while all other Rockets stood around flat footed. Sonics 78, Rockets 63.
Francis brought the Rockets back to within 10 as the lead bounced between 10 and 12, but a Brent Barry three as the third quarter horn sounded gave the Sonics a 13-point edge, 88-75. Payton had 32, 10 boards and 6 assists through three -- scary. Francis had 15, 7 and 6.
A Pig Miller tip-in off a Cat miss early in the fourth would cut the lead to 9, but Brent Barry hit another three and a Baker turnaround jumper in the lane made it 93-79 Seattle.
Rockets responded quick running off 9 uncontested points: Pig scored a deuce off his own miss, Cat drained a three-pointer, Moochie Norris dished a full court pass to Pig for two then a Shandon bucket trimmed the lead to 93-88 with 8:12 to go and the fans were back in full force.
The Rockets made the run 11-0 when Pig found Mobley underneath for a layup on a fast break.
It ended there. Rashard Lewis and Lazaro Borrell took over from there.
Rashard hit a turnaround to end the scoring sprint, then shortly after scored a bucket and foul. Borrell then put in 2 quick scores on some nice moves and baseline drives, then Lewis capped that off with another turnaround and the Rockets had no choice but to call timeout, knowing even with 4:56 left, the game had slipped away.