HOUSTON, Dec. 10 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis
scored 32 points and rookie
collected 17 and 15 rebounds as the Houston Rockets
ended a nine-game losing streak against the Sacramento Kings
with a 103-96 victory.
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Francis scored 16 points in the first half as the Rockets took a
62-45 lead after 24 minutes. Houston led 33-28 midway through
the second quarter before using a 19-10 run to to build a
14-point cushion with three minutes left in the half.
Despite battling flu-like symptoms, Yao collected his fourth
straight double-double. He capped another solid night by
hitting a pair of clutch shots in the fourth quarter, helping to
stem the tide after a 12-2 run by the Kings got them within
89-84 with 5:17 remaining.
"Steve has been talking to me and telling me to play more
physical," Yao said through an interpreter. "I'm trying to do
that more. So he is a great player to play with and I'm getting
more used to playing with him."
The Rockets took an 81-71 lead into the fourth, but missed 13 of
their first 16 shots before the 7-5 center hit a five-foot hook
shot and a short jumper on Houston's next two possessions to
extend its lead to 93-84 with 3:41 left.
While Houston was cold early on in the final quarter, Sacramento
missed an opportunity to take the lead. The Kings missed their
first six shots of the period before Chris Webber
's jumper at 8:19
started the 12-2 burst.
Webber's basket off a turnover by Yao with 4:56 left got
Sacramento within 89-84. The Kings had a chance to get even
closer after Keon Clark
intercepted Yao's pass on Houston's next
possession, but Moochie Norris
stole the ball from Clark and
Yao scored the first of his back-to-back baskets.
Webber scored 30 points for the Kings, who shot 44 percent
(41-of-93), but made just 2-of-16 3-point attempts. Sacramento
lost to Houston for the first time since March 2, 2000.
Webber scored 19 points in the second half and Bobby Jackson
finished with 27. But the Rockets held Doug Christie
points and limited Peja Stojakovic
to five in his first game
back after missing nine games with a heel injury.
Sacramento trailed just 35-30 following Jackson's jump shot at
8:02 of the second quarter, but Eddie Griffin
scored eight of
Houston's next 10 points, opening a 45-34 advantage with 6:10 to
Griffin hit his third three-pointer of the game with 4:36 left in
the first half, extending Houston's cushion to 50-36. Francis
converted consecutive reverse layups to give the Rockets an
18-point lead with 1:58 remaining.
The Rockets shot 60 percent (12-of-20) in the second quarter,
while the Kings shot just 42 percent (10-of-24) and missed 13 of
their final 17 shots.
"We had a poor second quarter," Kings coach Rick Adelman said.
"We just didn't play defense. We tried to come back but we just
got too far down. Houston played a great game tonight and it
looks like they are a playoff team for sure."
"Like I said before, winning big against a big team is what we
needed to do," Francis said. "We're still trying to learn how to
win and this is a good start. We still have a ways to go, but
we played a great defensive game tonight and that's what we
needed to do to beat this team."
Sacramento shot 57 percent in the third quarter and cut the
deficit to single digits numerous times. The Kings were within
66-60 following a three-point play by Webber midway through the
quarter. But Francis converted a driving layup and a three-pointer
from the right side before Glen Rice
and Yao had consecutive
uncontested dunks to restore Houston's double-digit lead.
"It was a great win against a team that's really handed it to us
in the past," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "They've had
us for a long time. We knew they would make a run and they
did. We talked about it before the third quarter, but all the
things you don't do, we did. We went cold and they took
advantage of it. Fortunately we were able to recover."