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12/21/1999 - Houston Chronicle
Miscues, poor shots let Blazers off hook
12/21/1999 - Houston Chronicle
Mobley, Rockets still learning
12/21/1999 - Houston Chronicle
Pippen's return not too haunting
12/21/1999 - Oregonian
A happy return for Pippen
12/21/1999 - Chicago Tribune
For his return, the boos of Texas are upon Pippen
Inexperience Kills
Smith leads Portland with 22 as veteran Blazers pull away late
By Clutch

True he had some costly turnovers and missed some shotslate, but Cat was hot through three and a half quarters, going 8-14 for the game for 20 points and 4 boards.
Thomas grabbed 6 boards and Bullard dished out 3 assists in 19 minutes, but a combined 0-7 from the field and 0-5 from long range means the decision is simply out of my hands.
Once again the Rockets played the Portland Trailblazers tight throughout.

However, the experience of the Blazers proved to be too much in the end. Quitten hit 2 big shots and Steve Smith hit 10 of his first 13 to lead the Blazers over the Rockets 89-79 in Houston.

Quitten was booed every time he touched the ball, and rightfully so, but managed to hit two big shots late, one a late three, in a game-ending 10-2 run for the Blazers.

Have to credit the fans though, who razzed Quitten all night and didn't get out of hand or resort to throwing things.

Granted, I would have liked to have thrown leaky car batteries at the man, but I digress.

Have to credit the team as well, who played the Blazers tough but struggled mightily in the fourth quarter, getting off just 9 shots and scoring just 11 points. 23 turnovers were costly as well -- only 12 for the Blazers.

The backcourt kept the Rockets in this game.

Cuttino Mobley led the effort and was fantastic with the shooting stroke for 3 and a half quarters, but got cocky and overconfident in the fourth and committed costly turnovers and missed some key shots. Nonetheless, Mobley finished with 20 points (8-14 shooting), 4 boards and 4 turnovers.

Steve Francis was astounding the fans early on with some nice moves, and finished with a good all around game (14 points, 7 assists, 6 boards, 2 steals, 4 turnovers)

Shandon Anderson also played well, and put up numbers incredibly similar to Pippen's. Scottie was 5-12 from the floor for 13 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. Anderson meanwhile also hit 5-12 from the floor, scored 12 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, 1 steals and 3 turnovers.

The only large difference in the numbers is about 13 million dollars this season.

Continuing to impress is Carlos Rogers who scored 12 points (5-10 shooting) and grabbed 8 boards -- 5 offensive.

Rogers started, along with Thomas Hamilton (4 points) and Matt Bullard (2 points) in the front court. Rudy T continues to show that it takes one hell of a lot of work to get pulled from his starting lineup or get inserted into his starting lineup. Case in point: Hamilton over Kelvin Cato. Cato gets the bulk of the minutes, but doesn't start. After the career game, the mouth was a little less foamy Tuesday as Cato finished with 6 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks.

Kenny Thomas was active, but couldn't put the ball in the hole while Bryce Drew has been in a slump since Francis came back. Drew hit just 1-4 shots in limited time (10 minutes).

As for Portland, I've said it before and I'll say it again... when I watch that team one word comes to mind:


Portland fans will scream they played two of their worst games against the Rockets this season, but fact is the Rockets gave the game away in Portland and without Barkley and Dream this go-around, trailed by just 2 late in the fourth quarter.

If this is supposed to be the juggernaut of the league, the NBA is in a world of hurt.

Nonetheless, they do have veterans, and when "Winning Time" arrived, Portland stepped up while the Rockets bowed out. Steve Smith, an excellent ballplayer and classy professional, was magnificent for the Blazers and his accuracy was one of the big differences in the game.

Someday the Rockets will step up at crunch time, but the Rockets are simply too inexperienced for that time to be now.

Clutch can be reached at and also can be followed on Twitter