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Thursday January 11, 2007 10:59 AM


Mutombo moves into second on all-time blocks list


Houston 102, L.A. Lakers 77

Game Recap: Box Score / Quotes



Damien Pierce
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- Dikembe Mutombo looked up at the list of the NBA's all-time great shot blockers on the scoreboard and proudly read his name below only Hakeem Olajuwon.

He was finally satisfied with his place in NBA history.

Mutombo rejected five shots to move ahead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into second place on the NBA's all-time blocked shots list Wednesday night and provided the defensive spark that lifted the Rockets to a 102-77 thumping of the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center.

The Rockets center now has 3,191 career blocked shots to sit only behind Olajuwon on the all-time list.

"When I came into the league 16 years ago, I told myself that if I walk away from this game, I just want to be remembered for one thing," Mutombo said. "Just to be one of the great defensive players to ever play this game. I never saw myself as being part of the offense and the time has come now for the history to be written that I was one of them."

Mutombo delivered a vintage performance on his record-setting night.

The 40-year old matched a season-high with 19 rebounds, buried a couple of jumpers for seven points and helped put the defensive clamps down on the Lakers.

Despite entering the game among the NBA's leaders in field goal percentage, the Lakers were held to a season-low 34 percent shooting and made only eight field goals in the second half. Kobe Bryant scored 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting.

Mutombo did his part to spark the rout by turning away Bryant and swatting consecutive shots from a kid half his age, Andrew Bynum, in the third quarter. The center's second rejection of Bynum moved him past Abdul-Jabbar.

Mutombo, of course, celebrated the blocked shot with his trademark finger wag as the third largest crowd in franchise history -- all 18,331 of them -- saluted the center with a standing ovation.

"Wow," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "He is playing like a young man, a young man with something to prove. It's really fun for all of us to watch."

The Rockets (23-13) picked up their seventh win in eight games even though Tracy McGrady scored only eight points.

Besides getting a solid defensive effort from Mutombo, Juwan Howard scored a season-high 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Rafer Alston showed signs of getting out of his shooting slump by scoring 20 points.

Mutombo's play, however, proved to be the spark that the Rockets needed.

After holding a slim 64-58 lead in the third quarter, the center's two rejections of Bynum led to fast break buckets and ignited an 8-0 run that gave Houston a 12-point lead heading into the final period.

The Rockets followed that with an 8-2 run to begin the fourth that would extend the advantage to 80-60. That was all Houston needed to coast to the win.

Mutombo has been delivering that sort of play ever since he replaced the injured Yao Ming in the starting lineup.

"I had to pull him to the side and tell him how great he looked," McGrady said. "Night-in and night-out, the big guy is playing great basketball for us and we need him to. With Yao (Ming) going down, the old man is getting it done out there at both ends of the court."

The performance even impressed Bryant.

"Dikembe is masterful in what he does and he knows how to play the game," Bryant said. "Andrew (Bynum) needs to learn from him and talk to him when he can to get some pointers. I always went out of my way to talk to the great players when I got in the league to learn things from them and he can do the same."

Mutombo said he was glad to finally overtake Abdul-Jabbar after the game.

The center's three children had been pestering him about the record for about a week since Mutombo was slowly pulling closer and closer to the Lakers great.

"Now, they're going to leave me alone," Mutombo said. "No more asking, 'Daddy! When are you going to block all the shots and break the record?"

Mutombo now stands only behind Olajuwon on the all-time blocked shots list.

The Rockets center hasn't decided if the 2006-07 season will be his last, but Mutombo promises that he won't remain in the league long enough to catch Olajuwon.

He is 639 blocked shots away from his fellow African center.

"I will leave that to my brother," Mutombo said. "He can keep that torch for the next generation."