The Rockets aren't going to make the playoffs, but don't tell those in the Central division that.
Houston became only the second team in NBA history to sweep a division, going 16-0 against the Eastern Conference's Central, with a 110-97 win over the Hawks Saturday night.
The win also assures the Rockets a winning record, upping their mark to 42-35.
Only the 1982-83 Los Angeles Lakers have ever swept an entire division, going 12-0 against the Central (division has since added Charlotte and Toronto). And to think the Rockets won't even make the playoffs... yet they couldn't be beaten by anyone in this division.
Damn. Makes the 35-40 Indiana Pacers' "playoff push" feel a little tainted, doesn't it?
For the win, the Rockets can thank Steve Francis and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Dream drained his first 7 shots in the first 6 minutes of action, putting up 14 before you could blink. He finished with 26 points on 12-17 shooting, 10 boards and 4 assists.
Yeah, he's 38 years old, but don't tell him that.
Francis meanwhile put up colossal numbers. Stevie scored a game-high 28 points, grabbed 9 boards and handed out 7 dimes. He also picked off 3 Hawks passes and drained 4 three-pointers.
His partner in crime in the backcourt, Cuttino Mobley, added 21 so that's a cool 75 points from Dream, Cat and Franchise.
Kenny Thomas had a rough shooting night (4-12), missing 7 of his first 8 shots, but he came up with 14 points (11 in the third period) and snared 13 boards. It's a crying shame you can't take the board work of KT and the shooting stroke of Maurice Taylor and make one player.
Jason Terry led the Hawks with 23 while Dion Glover, who nailed a 35-foot bomb to end the first half, added 17.
The Rockets trailed 11-4 before Hakeem Olajuwon took over. He sparked a 9-0 run and in just the first 6 minutes of the game, was 6-6 from the floor for 12 points.
An Hakeem slam, making him 7-7 from the floor, made it 21-15 Rockets with just under 6 minutes to go.
A Francis spot-up triple followed by a Shandon Anderson fast break layup made it 31-19 Rockets.
At the end of one it was 33-23 Rockets thanks to the 14 points (7-9 shooting) from Dream, and a monster first quarter as well from Steve Francis: 11 points, 5 boards, 5 assists. Jason Terry led the Hawks with 8.
The Rockets kept the heat on in the second. Cato and Mobley each scored, and when Shandon knocked down a trifecta, it was 40-25 Rockets.
However, the Rockets slacked off... Jason Terry kept hitting and after Lorenzen Wright converted a three-point play and Terry scored again, the Hawks were within 51-45.
The Rockets really crumbled at the end of the half as well. Dion Glover made two free throws with 17 seconds left and when Mobley threw up a three too early, the Hawks ran the other way and found Glover for a 35-foot bomb.... bingo.
A once 15-point lead down to 2 in the same quarter. Halftime: Rockets 54, Hawks 52. Hakeem had 18 at half while Francis had 14, but the rest couldn't get the job done. Kenny Thomas was just 1-7 from the floor. Terry had 14 and Glover 11 for the Hawks.
Fortunately, KT came alive in the third. Thomas scored 7 points -- a three-point play and two vicious slams, sandwhiched around an Hakeem baseline turnaround, and the Rockets built the lead back up to 9 at 71-62.
The Hawks refused to let this get back in control of the Rockets. Lorenzen Wright and Allan Henderson got in the action, and when Brevin Knight scored just before the end of the third, the Rockets lead was just 80-76 after three.
Kenny Thomas had 11 in the period, giving him 14 for the game. Hakeem led the team with 22 and Francis 18, 7 assists and 6 boards.
The fourth the Rockets meant business.
When Bullard drained a triple, Moochie a jumper and Mobley a tip-in, the Rockets finished an 11-2 run and were back up 11 at 93-82.