HOUSTON, April 15 (Ticker) -- Steve Francis
may have failed to lead the
Houston Rockets into the playoffs, but at least they will have a
NBA TV highlights from|
Francis finished with 19 points and nine assists as the Rockets
assured themselves of a winning record with a 97-86 victory over
the Memphis Grizzlies.
Houston (42-39) was expected to make a serious push for the
playoffs with Francis and Chinese rookie Yao Ming
in the mix.
But the Rockets failed to keep up with the Phoenix Suns' pace
and will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
The game also marked Houston's final game at Compaq Center as
the team will move into a new $202 million arena downtown. The
Rockets finished with a 28-13 mark at home.
"This is the house that Hakeem Olajuwon built, but we're looking
forward to go to the new building," Francis said. "We were
focused on leaving here on a good note."
The Rockets also got a strong effort from Francis' fellow
Maryland alum, Terence Morris
, who scored a career-high 17
points on 8-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes.
Francis, who was drafted by the Grizzlies, scored 12 points in
the first quarter and Houston never was headed after building a
31-18 lead. Morris scored six points in the second quarter as
the Rockets pushed their advantage to 54-40 at halftime.
"The game was special for me because I coached here for 10 years
(as an assistant) and was part of two championships," Rockets
acting coach Larry Smith said. "We had to do our jobs, be
professional and take care of business and that's what we did."
scored 15 points to lead Memphis, which dropped
its sixth straight road game. Jason Williams
scored 12 points
and nine assists and Pau Gasol
added 10 and 13 rebounds.
Memphis committed 15 turnovers, which led to 21 points for
"It wasn't their defense," Williams said. "We shot ourselves in
the foot with turnovers and gave them easy shots. That's what
got them going."
scored 18 points and James Posey added 16 and a
season-high 15 rebounds for Houston, which shot 52.5 percent
(21-of-40) in the first half. Francis had 15 points and five
assists over the first 24 minutes.
Yao had a rough night, committing six of Houston's 19 turnovers.
He finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes.
"Something that surprised me in a pleasant way was going to
other cities and sometimes feeling like we were at home," Yao
said through an interpreter. "There were so many people
supporting us, me in particular."
The Grizzlies grabbed their final lead when Williams fed
for a dunk and a 13-11 lead midway through the
first quarter. Francis scored 10 points in a 20-5 tear that
closed the quarter that gave the Rockets their 13-point lead.
A 3-pointer by Battier pulled Memphis to within 56-50 with just
over eight minutes left in the third quarter. Mobley answered
with a 3-pointer, Eddie Griffin
made a layup on the fast break
and Yao made two at the line to restore a 13-point cushion.
"We couldn't get closer than six," Memphis coach Hubie Brown
said. "They did a good job in the post. Their interior defense
was excellent, and that erased a lot of advantages we had."
Houston maintained a double-digit lead thereafter.
The Rockets, who close the season at Denver on Wednesday, have
won four out of six games.