Oh yes, the Rockets are cold.
In a game that was never as close as the final score would suggest, the Nuggets ran away from the Rockets early and coasted late, defeating the Rockets 106-97 in the Compaq Center.
The loss is the fourth straight for the Rockets and drops their record to 21-34.
The story was Nick Van Exel's 23 points (21 in the first half) and 11 assists and George McCloud's hot shooting (17 points), but the even bigger story was Steve Francis being held to zero points -- that's right, the big goose egg -- for the first time in his young NBA career.
Francis was 0-6 from the floor with 6 turnovers in just 24 minutes of play. He was ejected with just over 3 minutes to go for a Flagrant-2 foul on Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Though Francis was in fact going for the ball, he sent Wahad hard to the floor and was tossed. Francis also suffered a broken tooth and a busted lip on the play and had to use his uni to clean the blood off.
Bryce Drew wasn't much better in Francis' place, hitting just 2-9 from the field.
The shooting guards provided the bulk of the scoring for the Rockets. Cuttino Mobley hopped off the pine to hit 9-12 shots, including 3-3 from long distance, and score 24 points (leading both teams) in 24 minutes. Point per minute -- not bad. Shandon Anderson scored 14 on 7-11 shooting and grabbed 7 boards.
For those playing the clutchcity.net home game:
Point Guards: 13.3% shooting
Also struggling shooting the rock was Kenny Thomas, who started his third consecutive game (Matt Bullard looks to officially be pine fodder) and could connect on just 4-13 (0-4 from long range). 9 points and just 3 boards for Kenny.
Shooting guards: 69.5% shooting
Hakeem Olajuwon and Walt Williams each added 10 points while Carlos Rogers hit all 4 shots he took for 9 points and 8 boards.
But hey now, before you think all is lost because we got blown out at home by the Nuggets, keep in mind Moochie went nuts! Moochie Norris, in 6 minutes of garbage time, hit 3-4 shots, including a trey, to score 8 points. This guy has to stick with the club because who wouldn't like the chance to say we run a "Moochie-Cuttino" backcourt at times?
It was all Van Exel early... he had 12 points before you could blink and scored 21 in the first 2 quarters. The Nuggets led 34-21 after one and 61-37 at intermission.
The Rockets came out hot in the third, running off on a 14-2 sprint, but wouldn't you know it -- the Nuggets countered with a 16-2 run of their own and upped their lead back to 20+. Francis was ejected with just over 3 minutes to go in the third, and the team down 78-55, for the flagrant on Wahad.
Shortly thereafter, Kenny Thomas and Carlos Rogers were all alone underneath for the rebound off a Nugget miss, then both grabbed it, both screamed "I got it" and both knocked it out of bounds. Rogers walked away looking at Thomas in disgust.