HOUSTON, Dec. 31 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis scored 14 of his 26 points in the second quarter as the Houston Rockets closed out the 2002 portion of the NBA season with a 103-80 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

NBA TV highlights from
56k | 300k
Francis took control in the second period, when the Rockets broke open a tie game and grabbed a 50-36 halftime lead. After shooting just 7-of-21 from the field in the opening quarter, Houston made 12-of-16 shots in the second period.

"We distributed the ball well," said Francis, who also had nine assists. "Everybody got looks."

"He had some mismatches when they respected the drive and he got some open shots," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "That's a long night trying to guard him. Steve is growing on the mental side of basketball very much."

The Rockets pulled away in the third quarter and cruised to their 12th victory in 16 home games. They improved to 2-2 on a six-game homestand.

Cuttino Mobley scored 19 points and rookie sensation Yao Ming added 16 and eight rebounds for Houston, which shot 50 percent (38-of-76).

Former Rocket Sam Cassell scored 22 points for the Bucks, who were coming off Monday's surprising win at Dallas but fell to 5-12 on the road.

"The back-to-back games are no excuse," said Bucks reserve forward Jason Caffey, who scored 12 points. "We didn't play as hard as we can and got beat.

Milwaukee also was without leading scorer Ray Allen, who sat out with two sore ankles. Michael Redd started in his place but scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting.

"That slowed them up a lot," Mobley said. "That's a big plus for us. They played four games in five days. They were tired.

Playing on New Year's Eve at 9 p.m. local time did not sit well with either team, who were meeting the media and showering when 2003 arrived.

"(It) was something different," Bucks coach George Karl said. "I'm very disappointed in the effort we put forth. We never met the level of intensity that Houston brought to the game."

"Terrible," Cassell added. "It would have been OK playing New Year's Eve at 7 p.m., but 9 p.m. is too late."

Caffey's baseline jumper pulled Milwaukee into a 32-32 tie with 3:45 left in the second quarter before Francis accounted for every point in an 11-0 burst. He scored nine and fed James Posey for a fast-break layup.

A layup by Kevin Ollie cut the deficit to 58-46 with 7:50 left in the third quarter before Houston ran off 10 straight points. A 3-pointer by Mobley capped the surge and made it 68-46 with 5:31 to go.

The Rockets held an 83-58 lead entering the final period and rested all their regulars. Bucks rookie Marcus Haislip made the last basket of 2002, a 3-pointer with 34 seconds to go.

"That was the first I've rested in the fourth quarter," Francis said.