SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 12 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis'
quick start helped
the Houston Rockets return the favor on the road.
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Francis scored 25 of his 36 points in the first half as the
Rockets rebounded with a record-setting 106-76 victory over the
Utah Jazz in the back end of a home-and-home series.
Houston won a regular-season game in the Delta Center for the
first time since November 4, 1996, ending an 11-game skid. The
Rockets did it with their largest victory margin in the 142-game
"It was good to get a win after last night (when) we really
thought we had the game in the bag," Francis said.
On Tuesday, the Rockets suffered a 103-101 overtime loss at home
to the Jazz, allowing Matt Harpring
to make a tying 3-pointer
at the end of regulation.
Francis scored 28 points in the loss and wasted no time helping
the Rockets get even on the Jazz's court. The All-Star scored
16 points in the first quarter, helping Houston race to a 26-18
lead. He had a free throw and jumper to open the second period
and push the lead to double digits.
"When the shots were there, I was taking them," said Francis,
who was 11-of-19 from the field and 11-of-13 from the line.
"I've been like that all season. If they're not, then I'm not
going to take them."
Late in the first half, Francis found Cuttino Mobley
for a hoop,
then dunked for a 50-37 lead. His two free throws sent Houston
to the locker room with a 52-40 lead.
"I think we needed to come out and set a tone against this
team," Francis said. "They're a real veteran, savvy team. They
really know how to win late in the game, especially at home. We
had to come out and play hard."
Francis scored 11 more points in the third quarter as the
Rockets limited the Jazz to 19 points and opened an 81-59 lead
entering the final period.
"We had no answer to Francis tonight," Jazz acting coach Phil
Johnson said. "He was just sensational. He just took over the
game. We really had a hard time with him, especially in the
Francis did not score in the fourth quarter, although he threw
an alley-oop pass for a dunk by Maurice Taylor
that gave Houston
a 96-69 lead with just over five minutes to go. After that, he
took a seat on the bench.
"It's important that this team play 48 minutes of good
basketball," Francis said.
"He was phenomenal," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "He
was our leader out there."
Rookie sensation Yao Ming
scored 15 points and Taylor and James
added 13 apiece for the Rockets, who shot 53 percent
"Tonight was definitely the most complete game we played,
especially in terms of our energy level and our ability to
maintain our poise," Yao said through an interpreter.
Houston (27-23) snapped a three-game slide and remained one-half
game ahead of the surging Los Angeles Lakers in the race for
the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
scored 15 points and Karl Malone
added 13 for
the Jazz, who shot just 38 percent (27-of-71) and looked nothing
like the squad that relies on teamwork for its success.
"You got a guy that's hot like Francis was tonight, who's one of
the top players in the league, you've got to come off and help,
and when you help somebody has got to come over and help you,"
Jazz forward Scott Padgett
said. "If we had 80 opportunities to
do it, we might have done it three or four times. You can't
win like that."
Malone made just 4-of-12 shots. He suffered a broken nose in
Tuesday's win and played without any sort of protection. That
proved costly when he was accidentally hit in the nose by
teammate John Amaechi
in the final minute of the first half.
Utah went 4-3 under Johnson, an assistant who has filled in for
the suspended Jerry Sloan. After a seven-game ban, Sloan will
return Friday against Washington.
"I was looking forward to that the day he left," Johnson said.
"It is tough to end with this, but you have to give our guys
credit. We have had a tough little stretch here and except for
this game, we have played very well."