Wow... what a game.
If you saw it you know what I'm talking about... the Rockets are a smoking hot offensive team.
Walt Williams drained a trifecta from the baseline corner with 5.1 seconds left that broke a tie and gave the Rockets a 119-116 stunning win in Seattle.
After a humbling loss in Vancouver, the Rockets rebounded to crush the Blazers and nip the Sonics on the East coast swing. Damn, the irony. The Rockets shot nearly 54% against the Sonics -- they shot 57.5% and averaged 118.5 points against the two playoff contenders.
Or more specifically... Wizard, Steve Francis, Shandon Anderson and Cuttino Mobley are smoking hot.
Walt finished with 23 points -- none bigger than the three he nailed to win it. He hit 8-13 shots, including 5-8 from beyond the arc. He dished 7 assists and grabbed 5 boards. After being in the doghouse for a portion of the season and mired in a horrendous slump, Walt has come out of it in a big, big way.
However, the Rockets guard trio is getting stronger with each game. The painful irony is that the Rockets were such a strong inside team and a guard away from a third championship for several years -- now they have backcourt strength to spare.
Gary Payton still had a brilliant game (29 points, 9 boards, 9 assists, 5 steals, 12-30 shooting), but he was torched early and often by Francis, who forced two early fouls on the Glove then dropped in 18 in the first frame alone. Steve finished with 31 points -- all coming in the first 2 and a half quarters -- on a sizzling 13-21 shooting, 7 assists and 6 boards. He ran through the Sonics defense, nailed three-pointers (3-6)... he was amazing. Sonics announcers raved about him all night and described his move to the bucket as "lightning to the cup."
And when he wasn't doing the damage Shandon Anderson was as he took over down the stretch. Shandon finished with 28 points on 12-17 shooting and grabbed 7 boards.
Said Nunyo Demasio of the Seattle Times, "Steve Francis undressed the Glove with crossovers, while Shandon Anderson treated Brent Barry like a revolving door."
They were that good.
Cuttino Mobley had an off night shooting the ball, but still played a huge factor. He hit just 6-15, but nailed 10-11 from the charity stripe for 22 points.
104 of the 119 points from those 4 alone. As for Shandon (26 years old), Mobley (25) and Francis (23), you are looking at a core that is growing and will most likely be the league's most formidable (and downright scary) guard trio over the next 10 years.
Rehashing the game
Francis scored 18 points in the first quarter and in the first 12 and a half minutes had hit 8-11 shots, including 2-3 from long range, for 20 points.
The Sonics led 41-40 then broke open a close game with a 14-0 run that ended only when Steve Francis returned and found Cuttino Mobley for a two-handed hammer dunk.
The Rockets made a strong charge before the half ended as Mobley scored 5 straight then Shandon Anderson got a fast break bucket and foul (missed the FT) and it was 60-54 Sonics at the break.
After a vicious Francis slam followed shortly by a three by 'Chise, the Rockets trailed 64-63. A little later another drive to the hoop by Francis followed by a 3 on 1 break capped by a Shandon layup and it was 71-70 Sonics.
With over 6 minutes left in the quarter Walt found Francis on a frontpage SportsCenter alleyoop and Steve already had 29 points.
When Shandon snared a KT miss and put it back in the Rockets took the lead, 77-75. After Francis scored on a circus drive/layup, he had 31 points and the Rocks led 83-79.
The Rockets led 91-90 after three.
They increased their lead to 97-92 after Walt found Shandon alone underneath for two. Shandon got another bucket and had 26 points, giving the Rocks a 99-94 lead. The Sonics ran off 4 quick points before Walt hit a three off the baseline to make it 102-98.
Payton drained a three to make it 102-101, but then the Rockets forced 2 quick fouls on Payton and Mobley hit 2 freebies as a result, but Horace Grant and Rashard Lewis followed up quickly with hoops and the Sonics reclaimed the lead 105-104 with 4:50 to go.
Shandon Anderson took Gary Payton off the dribble and gave the Rockets a 109-107 lead with a gorgeous drive up over the trees.
After a Walt Williams three it was 114-109 Rockets, but Rashard Lewis hit a three and after a Cato turnover, Brent Barry tied the game with 1:45 left with a driving layup.
The Rockets worked the ball around and found Walt, who drove baseline and almost hammered home a sweet dunk but it rimmed out -- but Cat Mobley saved the play by grabbing the board and getting fouled. He made both free throws. The defense on the other end was fantastic as Seattle missed two opportunites. Bringing the ball back up the Rockets found Mobley who missed a three, but Cato got the board and "appeared" to be slightly pushed out of bounds by Brent Barry. The call was made, then reversed -- Sonic ball with 27.8 ticks left.
Rashard Lewis drive and was fouled with 22.3 seconds left -- he made both charity shots to tie it at 116.
Coming out after a timeout, the Rockets spread the floor and worked the clock... Francis to Anderson to Mobley .... who found Walt from the baseline..... three-ball!!
Rudy leaped out of his seat with both hands in the air. 5.1 ticks left... Rockets 119, Sonics 116.