A special night in the Compaq Center.
The Rockets honored Clyde Drexler at halftime and retired his No. 22, then Shandon Anderson honored one of his favorite players of all-time by going out and scoring a career high 32 points in the Rockets 109-106 win over the Philadelphia Sixers.
It's the Rockets 3rd straight win and 9th in their last 12 contests. It ups their record to 19-27.
The bad news was Steve Francis (10 points, 7 assists, 6 boards) left the game late in the fourth quarter with a groin injury. We're awaiting word on Francis' status.
The Rockets shot better from long range (48%) then they did from the field (45+%). It helps when you connect on 9 of your first 10 threes, as the Rocks did. Seven Rockets scored in double figures.
Shandon was amazing. He hit 10-17 from the field, 10-14 from the free throw line (including his last 9 freebies), and both threes he took to amass his career high of 32. He also added 7 boards and 3 steals... Shandon was all over the place, and he did it on a night when one of the players he admired was honored.
"It was just a coincidence that I had this type of game on the night his number was retired," said Shandon. "But I always liked the way he played. I liked how he went coast to coast. In a lot of ways my game is a mirror image of his. He was a great 2-guard who got everyone involved and could post up, too. That's the kind of game I want to play."
The Rockets needed every one of Anderson's points too as Allen Iverson went off for forty to lead all scorers. The guy is amazing... hit 16-25 shots and just scored like mad.
On a night when the Rockets would honor Clyde, you know Hakeem had some extra motivation to play well. By far and away Dream looked the best he has since returning from injury, hitting 7-9 shots for 14 points, 5 boards and a pair of blocks in just 23 minutes. He was active... the most active I've seen him in a long time. He had 2 or 3 simply classic moves.
Ask Theo Ratliff. He saw one of them close up.
Walt Williams scored 13 points to go with 7 boards and 4 assists. He scored 8 of the team's first 9. Matt Bullard knocked down 11.
Kenny Thomas and Kelvin Cato both also played very well. Thomas got a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 12 boards while Cato scored 10 points and blocked 4 shots ... plus hit some late clutch free throws. Not a single Cato block was "weak", if you know what I mean. The type where they were blocked by his tricep and sent into the fifth row.
After Walt picked up a loose ball and went the length of the floor for an acrobatic layup to give the Rockets a 6-4 lead. Walt then hit his second three of the game and had 8 of the Rockets first 9 points. Shandon then backed down Iverson, spun, ht a 10-foot fadeaway and got fouled (missed the free throw) and the Rockets led 14-10.
Shandon missed 4 of his first 5 free throws however and after Iverson picked up a three-point play, the Sixers led 19-15. After a massive Ratliff block on a Francis drive, Snow scored on the other end and the Sixers run was 7-0.
After Ratliff blocked Francis again, then dunked home a Philly miss, it was 27-19 Philly.
But the Rockets got it going and after Shandon Anderson ran off 5 straight points, the Rockets trailed just 30-28. Back to back threes by Walt and Francis gave the Rockets a 36-32 lead, then Francis from "waaaaaaaay downtown!" (as Bill Worrell would put it) nailed a three at the buzzer.
Points explosion: Rockets 39, Sixers 32.
Ceremony for Clyde:
They brought out Clyde and his family to a standing ovation. Gene Petersen as Master of Ceremonies, introduced Clyde's first coach, Dr. Jack Ramsay. Dr. Jack said he never had a player who competed harder than Clyde. Kiki Vandeweghe was next. Kiki said if he could be like one person, he would be like Clyde Drexler.
Next was former teammate Buck Williams. Buck jokingly accused Clyde of cheating in golf by faking his scorecards. Buck also said Clyde always talked about playing for the Houston Rockets some day and Buck was glad he got that chance and to win the title with them.
The Doctor: Julius Erving was next. He got a tremendous standing ovation from the Houston faithful.
Dr. J said Clyde was one of the true airmen in the league, and there was "nothing accidental" about his success.
Next was Dream.
HUGE ovation. He came out and he and Clyde gave each other a big hug.
Dream called Clyde "one of his best friends", and talked about watching him grow up as a person and watching how his game developed so much.
Les Alexander and his wife gave Clyde an 18-carot gold watch with 18 diamonds set around his number 22. Les joked about how Clyde will be remembered as a great player, Olympian, Hall of Famer, champion then said maybe even one day he'll be remembered as a "winning coach".
The Rockets then unveiled a huge frame with both his Rocket jerseys in it (red and gold as well as the Jetsons pajamas). They then raised his uni up next to Rudy T, Murphy and Moses.
It was Clyde's turn to speak, but as he was speaking, there were several different technical difficulties -- problems with the mic. They finally got Clyde a new mic to talk with, which drew huge cheers from the impatient fans who came to see Clyde speak.
Clyde called Carroll Dawson an "expert of the game in basketball". Clyde thanked "CD" for always having the answers for Clyde... what he needed to do to improve, etc. He also thanked former UH coach Guy V. Lewis for his teaching and inspiration. He thanked his mother and his wife for being his "heart, soul and inspiration." He thanked Rocket owner Les Alexander for pulling the trade in 1995 that took criticism at the time but brought the city their second championship.
Clyde said he had talked about playing for the Rockets from his rookie season to his 11th year in the league. He called Houston fans the "greatest sports fans in the world".
He said he wanted to be like Dr. J when he was a kid and patterned his game after him. Clyde told a story in 1983 of he and Hakeem going to see the Rockets against the Sixers and Dr. J brought them into the locker room to meet him. Clyde tried to stop himself, but laughed saying he and Hakeem were shaking about to "piss in their pants".
He called Buck Williams the hardest working guy in the league. He praised Kiki Vandeweghe for his ability to score and also thanked Dr. Jack Ramsay for teaching him so much - calling him a "great coach and mentor".
Then it was Hakeem the Dream's turn.
Clyde said he and Hakeem constantly talked about being on the same team. As soon as they gave up on the idea of it ever happening, Clyde said he became a Houston Rocket. He called Hakeem one of the best players to ever play the game and told him he loved him.
It ended there with a standing ovation from the crowd.
The Rockets were a smoking 6-7 from beyond the arc. Shandon had 12 and Walt 11.
Kenny Thomas tipped in a Bryce Drew miss and the lead was 43-36. 10-point lead after a Bullard three. After Kenny and Cato each scored it was 50-38, and there was still over 5:50 to go in the first half.
After Bullard and Mobley each hit threes, the Rockets were 9-10 from long range and led 56-43.
Philly went on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 6. Very scary moment with 20-30 seconds left in the first half. Eric Snow and Steve Francis collided and Franchise ended up on the floor holding his knee in pain. He walked off the court under his own power however.
The Rockets got the last shot though as Shandon nailed a three as the buzzer sounded, giving Houston a 61-52 edge at halftime.
The Rockets came out in the third flat as Philly ran off 8 straight points to trim the lead to 61-60 Rockets. When Walt Williams found Francis on a "Snowbird" full court pass that Francis jammed home, it was 65-62 Rocks, but Iverson immediately tied it with a three. After a long Iverson jumper, the Sixers led for the first time since 28-26.
Dream nailed a shot at the top of the key, then on a fast break, Francis found Shandon who got mugged (no call) and missed the layup ... but Francis came flying in to tomahawk it down. Awesome... even made Dr. J do a double-take.
After an Iverson baseline jumper it was 75-71 Sixers, but Olajuwon got an alleyoop to cut it to 2. GORGEOUS move by Olajuwon got his man in the air then reversed it up to tie the game. Shandon then blew by his man and put it up over Ratliff to regain the lead, 77-75. After a Kenny three it was 80-77.
The play of the quarter saw Shandon Anderson pick Iverson cleanly as he was driving then go the length of the court for the thunderous jam as time expired. End of the third: Rockets 84, Sixers 79.
AWESOME play saw Hakeem block a Sixer drive, then throw a behind the back pass to Francis, who found Shandon screaming down the baseline for a dunk (27 for Shandon at this point). Two Kenny free throws then made it 88-79.
Dream then made Ratliff look silly with a going-one-way-then-the-next jump hook and the Rockets lead was 90-79.
Shandon Anderson then nailed a three, getting his new career high with 30 points. 93-79 Rockets.
Hakeem pulled up for a jumper from 15, and instead of shooting, fired a pass down low to Kenny Thomas for a slam. Beautiful play.
Philly ran off 6 straight before Cato got a reverse layup to fall, putting the lead at 97-87. However, Iverson got a second chance bucket then Ratliff nailed a short hook and the lead was 6 with about 4 minutes to go.
Ratliff got a three-point play to trim it to 5. The Rockets couldn't get a shot off and inbounded with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. Anderson found Cato for a terrifying alleyoop with about 2 minutes to go.
The Rockets inbounded, up 5, with 1:25 left. Cato was fouled immediately, and made 1-2 at the line. Iverson then drove and scored, and on the other end Shandon missed a point blank layup. Iverson drove again, was blocked but got fouled. He made the first then missed the second. But Philly got the board. Iverson immediately threw up a three to tie it, but missed. Cato grabbed the miss and was fouled with 39 ticks left.
Cato made both free throws. 104-99 Rockets.
The Rockets hit their free throws down the stretch (Mobley and Drew), then Eric Snow hit a three to cut it to 2 with 3.4 ticks left. The Sixers immediately fouled Cato, who went to the line.
Cato made 1-2. Rockets up 3 with just 3.4 ticks left.