Houston 102, L.A. Lakers 91
HOUSTON, April 23 (Ticker) --
With their lead evaporating down the
stretch, the Houston Rockets turned to their own dynamic duo to
get back in their Western Conference first-round series with the
Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA TV highlights from|
made a tough hook shot and Steve Francis sank a pair of
improbable layups in the final two minutes as the Rockets held
on for a 102-91 victory over the Lakers in Game 3.
Houston led by as many as 13 points in its first home game of
the postseason, but Los Angeles climbed within 90-86 as
and Kobe Bryant
asserted themselves in the
Instead of falling apart, Yao and Francis helped put away the
game. Yao made a lefthanded hook shot with 1:52 left despite
being mauled by O'Neal to key a game-ending 12-5 run.
"It wasn't about him getting the shot," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy
said. "He's worked on trying to develop his left hand.
It was a great shot against very good defense. We needed that
shot to go in."
Steve Francis' circus shots highlighted the fourth quarter.|
Francis made a reverse layup as he was fouled with 67 seconds to
go. He missed the ensuing free throw but sealed the win when
he banked in a layup with his back to the basket as he was
fouled by O'Neal with 40 seconds remaining.
"Those are definitely two of the toughest shots I've taken in my
career," said Francis. "I was able to draw contact."
"That was the game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson
Francis made the foul shot as the Rockets went 5-of-6 from the
line in the final 25 seconds.
Francis barely missed his second straight triple-double with 27
points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Yao finished with 18
points and 10 rebounds for Houston, which hosts Game 4 on
"Steve's been outstanding all three games, except the turnovers
in the first game," Van Gundy said.
Houston won its first playoff game since 1999, when it was
eliminated by the Lakers, 3-1, in the first round.
O'Neal had 25 points and 11 rebounds and Bryant scored 21 points
but made just 7-of-20 shots from the floor. The Lakers shot 43
percent (36-of-83) and were only 14-of-24 from the line.
Los Angeles went to O'Neal early and often in the first quarter,
building a 17-12 advantage, its largest of the game.
O'Neal scored 11 of LA's first 13 points but did not score again
before halftime, sitting out the final 2:10 with three fouls.
"He probably got tired from scoring," Van Gundy joked.
"I tried to stay out of foul trouble, but I still got a couple
of silly fouls," O'Neal said.
Houston's big three of Francis, Yao and Cuttino Mobley
, who had
21 points and five assists, outscored and outplayed Los Angeles'
trio of O'Neal, Bryant and Karl Malone.
The victory proved an emotional lift for the Rockets, who were
in danger of being swept.
"All we did with this win is get back in the series," Van Gundy
said. "It's not about pounding our chests."