(Game Recap coming...
... Game Notes below)
The Rockets jumped all over the Grizzlies early. After Cato slammed and Mobley scored again, the Rockets led 12-2 with under 8 minutes left in the first.
From there the Grizz went on a 10-2 run of their own just before a Francis jumper and a Shandon three put the Rocks up 19-14.
When Francis found Walt Williams in transition for three, the Rockets led 27-19. Was wild -- the NBA League Pass was having bad technical problems tonight, and on the fly the broadcast switched from the Grizz announcers to Bill & Calvin.
After one the Rockets led 27-21. Mobley hit his first 4 shots, finishing with 8 points and 5 boards in the period. Francis had 6 dimes in the first quarter alone. Bullard and Shandon Anderson each added 5. Shareef and Big Country each led the Grizz with 6.
The Grizz took off on a 9-2 run to start the second, and when Tony Massenburg scored a layup underneath, the Grizz too their first lead at 32-31 and the Rockets were forced to call timeout with 8:19 left in the half.
Then Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf happened.
Mahmoud, formely known as Chris Jackson, just exploded, hitting 4 quick jumpers as the Rockets had to call timeout again, down 40-33. The Grizzlies run was up to 19-6.
It got worse before it got better.
Massenburg scored on two more jumpers and the Grizz were destroying the Rockets on the offensive boards -- just killing them. They had more offensive boards (16) then the Rockets did defensive boards (13). Vancouver had a 14-2 edge in second chance points.
When Mahmoud hit two more long jumpers, it was 51-37 and it stayed that way at intermission. The damage? The Grizzlies had beaten the Rockets 30-10 in the second quarter. Rauf was 6-8 from the floor for 12 points in the period while the Rockets made Massenburg look like a star with 9 in the quarter.
Whatever Rudy said at halftime, it didn't work. The Grizz upped their lead to 19 right away by scoring 5 straight off the bat and Rudy stopped the action yet again with another timeout.
That timeout finally got through. Bullard ended the drought (which going back to the last bucket of the first quarter was a 37-10 run by Vancouver) with a jumper, then Shandon Anderson slashed to the hoop for two, nailed a three, then attacked the basket again for a deuce, helping the Rockets tear off on a 9-0 run to get within 56-46.
Damon Jones responded with a triple and Bibby a long jumper and the lead was back to 15, but then Francis woke up. Just 1-7 from the field for 2 points up to that point, Steve drove, scored and got fouled, converting the three-point play, then made back-to-back threes, skipping back up court each time.
When Mobley followed that with a triple of his own, the Rockets were within 62-58 with 4:13 left in the third and the Grizzlies had to call timeout.
After Shareef hit 1-2 free throws, the Rockets executed a play to perfection. They tossed it to Bull in the high post, who immediately handed it off to a streaking Shandon, who drew the defense and fired a perfect alleyoop to Kelvin Cato, who flew in off the baseline.
The Rockets were so hot from long range that even Shandon Anderson banked in a triple, and when Bullard hit a three just before the end of the third, it was all knotted up at 69 heading in to the fourth.
Shandon led the team with 15 points while Mobley had 11 and 7 boards and Francis 11 and 10 assists. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was 8-11 for 16 points.
Cato slammed to start the period, then Mobley followed that with a jumper and the Rockets were up 4. The Rockets upped their lead to 6 at 77-71 before Mahmoud showed he was still hot, sparking a 6-0 run to tie the game at 77.
Rauf was insane... he nailed two more jumpers as the Grizz and Rockets exchanged bucket for bucket. When Walt nailed a triple off the baseline, the Rockets were up 84-81.
But the Grizz came back, and when Shareef hit a long jumper with 3:57 to go, the Grizz led 87-86, but Moochie followed that immediately by blowing by Stromile Swift for a nice deuce.
Cato was fouled with 2:42 on a fast break, and he made both free throws. After forcing a Grizzlies miss, the Rockets missed, but Cato tipped the ball out and gave the Rockets another chance. Francis then found Cato for an alleyoop slam with under 2 minutes to go, putting Houston up 5.
From there they took care of business, with the lone excitement left coming with less than a minute to go.