When Cat Roars, Rockets Soar

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Cuttino Mobley wants to see his name in lights. He wants fans screaming his name and billboards the size of a grizzly bear bearing his likeness. He wants to be an All-Star, a Hall-of-Famer, a legend. He wants to be the best. If he keeps playing like he did last night -- 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting including 6-for-9 from beyond the arc in a 97-86win over New Orleans -- he'll get there.

The Rockets are now 11-4 when Mobley is their leading scorer, though it ought to be noted that in the four losing games, Mobley was the leading scorer despite racking up less than 20 points. When Mobley is the leading scorer and scores more than 20, the Rockets are undefeated. The reason partially is that Mobley leading the team in scoring with e.g. 16, 17 points means Yao was likely in foul trouble, Francis's shot was off, and Houston as a whole did not put up much of an offensive fight.

Lost in the shuffle was the defensive performance of Steve Francis. Francis matched up with buddy Baron Davis for most of the game, and was, from a box score standpoint, decimated by him. Davis scored 30 points on 12-for-28 shooting and had only two fouls, while Francis scored only 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting, and picked up five fouls. If Francis truly were a selfish player caring only about his own performance, the Rockets would not have won last night.

Instead, it was Francis's decision to play his role on the team and not get into a one-on-one contest with Davis that helped bring victory to Houston again. True, Francis put up only half the shots that Davis did, but he shot the same percentage, and he got to the line a lot more. Davis was two-for-two from the charity stripe, while Francis was seven-for-seven. Francis also had one more assist than Davis, and one more rebound. His tight defense, while it resulted in fouls against him, also helped check Davis from going totally wild.

The victory was Mobley's to deliver, and deliver it he did, but his teammates deserve some secondary credit too. Francis deserves accolades for looking for Mobley's hot hand, for slowing down Davis, and for playing unselfishly. Yao Ming, in foul trouble most of the night, still managed to get 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with nine rebounds and two blocks in only 28 minutes of action. Jim Jackson has continued his efficient production, scoring 19 on 7-of-12 shooting along with seven rebounds in 37 minutes. Clarence Weatherspoon gave a good rebounding effort off the bench, grabbing seven rebounds in only half the game, playing 24 minutes.

The Houston Rockets may be peaking and gelling at just the right time.

Houston is off today and hosts Memphis tomorrow. Houston's current four game winning streak is second only to Memphis's six game winning streak in the end, but one of those streaks has to end. Houston is looking to get back to its lock-down defensive ways and head into the playoffs at the top of their form. The game starts tomorrow night at 7:30pm CT and will be broadcast locally on channel 51 and nationally on NBA League Pass.

Jonathan Feigen ofThe Houston Chronicle notes:
The Rockets' bench scored 10 points, its fewest since Jan. 31 when they had eight in the 88-77 loss to the Nets. ... The Rockets are 11-3 at home and 11-3 on the road against Eastern Conference teams, with one road game (at Milwaukee) and one home game (against Toronto) left to play. ... After making 47.9 percent of their shots, the Rockets are 25-3 when making at least 45 percent of their attempts. ... Baron Davis' 28 shots were the most against the Rockets this season. ... The Hornets outscored the Rockets 18-4 in fast-break points... At 38-26 the Rockets are 12 games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 1998-99 lockout season, their last in the playoffs, and have their best record so late in a season since 1996-97's 57-25.

The Southwest Airlines Beat the Rockets Experts Contest: Correctly predict the outcome of Rockets games and you and a friend will be on your way to any U.S. destination that Southwest Airlines flies. Got predictions?

The Houston Rockets are proud to be in the second season of broadcasting The Houston Rockets Big Hour, presented by State Farm. In partnership with Asian Southwest Media and the US International Center, this one-hour broadcast in Mandarin airs from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Wednesdays on Houston's KCHN 1050 AM throughout the 2003-2004 season.

The Second Annual Rockets Run on Saturday, March 13: the 5K Run and 2 Mile Walk will finish on the Rockets center court at Toyota Center. Participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt and a ticket to the Rockets game that night. A post-race party will be held immediately following the race. To register, click here.

The Houston Rockets would like to invite you out to the Houston Rockets and Toyota Tundra Zone. These Rocketized family festivals will be making stops at local parks, schools and community centers throughout the Greater Houston area. The next stop for the Tundra Zone is Sunday, March 14, 2004 from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. at Finnigan Park located in northeast Houston.

The Rockets would like to invite you out to Snickers Night on March 15 when the Rockets host the Phoenix Suns. The first 5,000 fans in attendance receive a Clutch Bobble Belly presented by Snickers.

Mike Wilks(foot) is living the NBA dream on the injured list.


Jonathan Feigen ofThe Houston Chronicle writes: You can let your imagination wander to picture the scene behind locked doors in Jeff Van Gundy's laboratory. The Rockets had been winning, at least more often than they were losing, and beating some pretty good teams. But they were not defending. And Van Gundy would rather eat dirt than sit through that.So Van Gundy has -- as Rockets forward Jim Jackson put it -- been "pounding, pounding, pounding" the virtues of defense. Like sausage making, it might be best not to know too much about the process.

Megan Manfull ofThe Houston Chroniclewrites: Cuttino Mobley looked at his hands in mock amazement after hitting his sixth 3-pointer of the night. Mobley was hot, and he knew it. More importantly, he also was having fun -- and it wasn't just because everything he shot went in. For the first time in a week, Mobley wasn't playing in pain... Mobley definitely made the difference against New Orleans. The Rockets and Hornets were matching each other point for point at the end of the first quarter when Mobley decided to take over.