HOUSTON, Nov. 12 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis
is making a habit out of
dominating the second half.
Francis scored 22 of his 30 points after halftime, including the
final 14 points for the Houston Rockets, who rallied for an
86-83 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
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Francis was limited to eight points in the first half on
Saturday before finishing with 31 in a win over Golden State.
He duplicated the feat against Portland, doing most of his
damage in the final eight minutes.
The Rockets trailed by 10 at halftime but pulled within striking
distance before Francis took over. The NBA's second-leading
scorer accounted for 16 of the last 18 points for Houston,
including the final six baskets.
"I was feeling pretty loose," he said. "The defense gave it to
me. I probably forced one shot after the end of the first
"Francis took over the game," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks
admitted. "I thought we had good defense on him. When he's
making his jump shot, he's tough to stop."
Francis gave the Rockets their first lead of the fourth quarter
when he and Cuttino Mobley
connected on a spectacular alley-oop
dunk to make it 78-76 with 4:02 left.
He buried a three-pointer with 1:39 to go and, after a layup by
Portland's Arvydas Sabonis
, gave Houston the lead for good at
85-83 with a driving underhand layup over Dale Davis
seconds to go.
The Rockets' defense came through at the other end as Eddie
and Kenny Thomas
stopped Sabonis from getting an easy
layup. Griffin blocked the shot and Thomas saved it from going
out of bounds.
"The last few years, I've played some center," Thomas said. "I
had to guard Shaq and Alonzo. My instincts told me
to get over and help Eddie."
"The last play was awesome," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich
said. "Eddie was holding him off and Kenny came over to help.
The defense did it for us."
Francis missed a chance to put away the game when he made just
1-of-2 free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining. But Blazers
forward Rasheed Wallace
missed a three-pointer as time expired.
Griffin had 14 points and nine rebounds and Thomas added 12 and
nine for the Rockets, who have won four of their last five
Davis, Sabonis, Bonzi Wells
and Scottie Pippen
each scored 12
points for Portland, which had a four-game winning streak
Wallace was held to a season-low nine points on 2-of-14 shooting
but grabbed nine rebounds.
Francis' fourth-quarter performance was even more spectacular
after he was nearly knocked out in the third. He was driving to
the basket with 4:43 left and was tangled with Wallace in
Francis landed on his right side and writhed in pain on the
floor. He remained in the game and buried two free throws as
part of a 9-0 run that gave Houston a 59-58 lead at 2:03.
"I honestly couldn't tell what happened," Francis said.
not a dirty type of player. He was going for the ball. It was
a fluke play. It was just something that happened."
"He's a warrior," Tomjanovich said. "There was no doubt in my
mind that if he could walk, he was going to play. He's a tough