Dallas owner Mark Cuban says NBA fans have no real insight in to the game... they only repeat what they read from the media.
Well read this: We just kicked your first place ass on your home floor.
The Rockets destroyed the Mavericks early, leading by 31 points early in the third quarter, before Dallas came flying back, whopping off 26 points of that monster lead to get within 5 with half a quarter left to be played.
After that 13-14 minute brain lapse, the Rockets kicked it back in to gear and went on to the 114-99 win over the Mavericks in Dallas, knocking them out of first place in the Midwest.
More importantly, it snaps the Rockets 6-game slide, and ups their record to 14-15.
Props to Rudy Tomjanovich, who knew that a) Walt Williams was struggling, and b) Don Nelson started a quick (and in essence three-guard) lineup of Howard Eisley, Steve Nash and Michael Finley. Though it usually takes an act of God for Rudy to make a starting lineup change, he did just that... benching Walt, moving Shandon Anderson to the three, Steve Francis to the 2 and had Moochie Norris run the point.
As a result, all involved came up big. Francis, for starters, scored 22 points, snared 11 boards (all defensive) and handed out 8 assists while turning the ball over zero times. Though Nash went off for 26 points, most of that was when Francis wasn't on him... his "D" on Nash was solid.
And by the way, how in the world is Nash a sex symbol now? Is it me or does the man look like someone shaved off the face of a sheepdog?
While everyone is going with Francis' big game, my player of the game is Shandon Anderson.
Yeah he bricked 10 of his 16 shots, but that's the point: Shandon Anderson took 16 shots. And played 39 minutes. Finally Shandon saw some serious PT, and in crunch time no less, and he responded with a big game on both ends of the floor: 15 points, 9 boards, 7 assists and 5 steals.
Shandon's defensive intensity was superb. He played extremely well on Michael Finley, and don't let his 32 points fool you. Some garbage time points boosted that total, but Shandon was all over Finley in this game, and defended the passing lanes very well.
Moochie meanwhile ran the show mostly and scored 9 with 7 assists -- just 1 turnover.
And of course the first guard off the bench led all Rockets in scoring. Cuttino Mobley scored 24 points in just 32 minutes of action... he hit some big key shots to boot.
And how about Kenny Thomas banking in that three? Kenny was 3-5 from long range, scoring 14 points and (get this) snaring 13 rebounds and (get this too) 5 assists and (really get a load of this) doing it in just 27 minutes of play.
This is where we'd call for Maurice Taylor's head except he too had a very good game. 6-10 from the floor, 12 points and 8 boards, including 4 offensive. Mo is definitely playing more aggressively on the glass, and if you missed it, be sure to check out on the highlights the sick dunk he threw down over Shawn Bradley. Problem is Mo played just 24 minutes, committed 4 turnovers and fouled out in that time span.
Hakeem Olajuwon in limited action scored 8 points while Walt came off the bench and hit all 4 shots he took (go figure), scoring 10 total. Kelvin Cato did not play due to the ankle sprain.
What you noticed right off the bat was Rudy T made a change to his starting lineup. He moved Shandon to the three, Francis to the two and Moochie at the point -- putting Walt Williams on the pine.
It worked early. After Moochie and Francis each hit threes the Rockets led 8-0. Buckets by Taylor then Dream made it 16-6 Rockets.
When Francis hit Kenny Thomas for a long three, the Rockets had their biggest lead at 25-14 and the quarter ended that way.
Taylor had 6 while Francis had 5 (and 7 rebounds) in the period. Shandon Anderson may have hit just 1-5 shots but he picked a pair of Maverick passes and played solid defense early on Michael Finley.
What a gorgeous spin move by Kenny Thomas, who just smoked Christian Laettner, for the bucket and foul. He missed the free throw, but the Rockets led 27-14.
After Francis nailed 2 free throws than Mobley banked in a short runner, the Rockets had doubled the Mavs' score at 31-15. Throw in a banked Kenny Thomas three and it was 34-17 Rockets. Walt then nailed a three then Shandon found Kenny underneath for 2 (giving him 10 points) and the Rockets had built a 20-point advantage, 39-19.
Things were going the Rockets' way.
The Mavs got it going, but the Rockets didn't wilt. Mobley scored 4 straight points than Walt Williams drained a baseline three and the lead was unbelievably 51-28 with 2 minutes to go in the half.
Moochie got mauled on a drive and they called a mystery offensive foul... how mysterious was it? They called it on #21, Kenny Thomas.
He wasn't in the game.
But when Mo Taylor slammed it home with 11 seconds to go, then drew a charge from Sheepdog Nash, the Rockets had a 53-31 halftime lead.
Kenny Thomas had 11 points and 5 boards while Mo and Mobley each had 8. Francis had 7 points and 9 boards. But the real star of the game, without a doubt, was the Rockets' inspired defense on the Mavs. Coming out of their recent players meeting, they said they need to focus harder on defense. That they did -- holding Dallas to 26.5% shooting in the first two quarters.
Mo scored on a jumper, than Dream nailed an 18-foot baseline jumper. Don Nelson got a 'T', Francis nailed the free throw and after inbounding, found Dream all alone udnerneath the hoop for 2.
And to add insult to injury, Mo Taylor then came flying down the middle of the lane and threw down a FIERCE one-hand jam flush in Shawn Bradley's face. Sportscenter highlight for years. It was so nasty that Taylor got called for a technical for taunting. The Rockets lead was 30 points, 64-34.
When Shandon Anderson scored a deuce, the lead was up to 31 at 69-38.
The Rockets got way too comfortable though -- Finley scored 7 straight points, Eisley hit a bucket and then Finley with a fadeaway and it was an 11-0 run by the Mavs, making it 69-49 Houston.
A Rocket timeout didn't halt the Mavs' momentum. Dallas cut it to 18 then drove on numbers with the fans roaring to cut it to 16, but Shandon swiped the ball out of Finley's hands to Francis, who found Anderson for the slam, making it 71-51.
The Rockets couldn't put the ball in the hole. Dallas came flying back. They cut it to 16 and after a Nowitzki 3-point play, it was 73-60 Rockets.
Mobley missed a drive at the buzzer, and the lead heading in to the fourth was 76-61.
Nash scored quickly to start the fourth. Walt hit a deuce and Francis a three, but a Nash three-point play cut it back to 13 at 81-68.
Walt again hit a long jumper (4-4 at this point... guess a benching did him good), then Cuttino a three and the lead was back up to 18, 86-68.
Maurice Taylor made a huge play: With just under 8 minutes to go Shandon missed a jumper and Mo fought from behind Shawn Bradley and tipped out a rebound past halfcourt to Moochie. They found Kenny Thomas on the wing who drained a baseline three, and the Rockets led by 17 with 7:40 left in the game.
It fell apart though when Steve Nash nailed two threes within 20 seconds of each other, sandwiched around a Mobley turnover, and the Rockets lead was cut to 11 with 6:24 to go in the game. Way too much time.
A Rocket timeout didn't stop Finley from slamming home two points on a fast break, and the once-31-point lead was down to 9, 90-81, with 5:52 to go.
After a miss by each team, Mobley was fouled on a drive but made just 1-2 free throws. Nash scored and then Mo picked up his 6th foul on an offensive rebound attempt, and Nowitzki made both free throws to cut the lead down to a measly 6 points with 4:15 to go.
Mobley saved the Rockets' bacon with a desperation drive for two, silencing the fans, and the Mavs committed an offensive foul. Unfortuately, Shandon did the same and Finley responded with a three to cut it to 93-88 with 3:24 to go.
The Rockets made a foolish pass, but Mobley picked it back -- it landed in Mo's hands who found Shandon streaking for the under the hoop layin. 95-88 Rockets.
Two Nash free throws cut it to 6, but Shandon scored on a sweet 360-spin around Finley, making it 98-90 Rockets with 2 minutes left.
Mobley scored with 1:21 left, upping the lead to 10, and the Rockets appeared to be dodging the bullet.
The Mavericks turned the game into a free throw shooting contest in the final minute, but when Francis picked the ball and went the other way for an emphatic celebratory slam, it was all she wrote.