Cuttino Mobley may be fearless, but he hasn't been all that wise when it comes to last minute, game-deciding decisions.
That changed in the Big Apple: "Instead of the three, just take it on Spree"
Cuttino blew by and around Latrell Sprewell and made a tough and gorgeous baseline layin that gave the Rockets a 76-75 lead and eventual win in Madison Square Garden.
The win snaps the Knicks' highly touted 7-game winning streak and puts the Rockets over .500 at 18-17.
Cuttino was just 6-15 from the field but no shot was bigger. He slowly brought it up the floor before exploding around Latrell's solid defense and putting in the sweet baseline/under the hoop layin with 8.7 seconds left in the game. Larry Johnson (18 points) missed a shot at the buzzer to seal the deal. Mobley finished with 16 points while playing Ironman minutes (all 48).
God bless Steve Francis. He again almost had a triple-double, totalling 22 points to lead all scorers, 9 assists, 8 boards and 3 steals. He hit 7-14 from the field and 3-6 from long range and despite being the target of refs, was the star of the evening.
Shandon Anderson also continued his terrific play, scoring 17 points, grabbing 6 boards and picking a few steals.
Walt Williams added 9 befor fouling out, Maurice Taylor 6 and 5 boards and Matt Bullard 6 as well.
That's it. No other Rocket scored.
The Rockets held the Knicks scoreless over the final 3 and a half minutes of the game -- their defense, particularly in the second half, was superb. Especially on rotation help. When the Knicks needed a big bucket two Rockets swarmed the guy with the ball, no matter how fast they whipped it around the circle.
Houston shot just over 37% -- but they held the Knicks to 31% shooting. Wow.
Though it was a huge win, make no mistake: there was no glorifying this game by overlooking the fact that it was ugly. And quite frankly one of the worst officated games I've seen in a long, long time, if not ever.
The refs were so blatantly calling in favor of the Knicks it would have made anyone not named Spike Lee yack. 9 offensive fouls, some of them just unbelievably wack, were called against the Rocks and it's a miracle Rudy T didn't get tossed from the game.
The first quarter was typical Knicks slow-ball. Everything the Rockets did was an offensive foul and New York got to the line 9 times. Houston? Zero.
After one it was 18 a piece. Francis finished with 8 while Shandon added 5 -- Larry Johnson led the Knicks with 9.
The Knicks ran off 5 straight to start the second and the offensive foul calls on the Rockets got so bad that Francis went around Chris Childs on one play and got called for a horrendous offensive charge. Rudy T, having to be restrained, picked up a technical.
Another Knicks bucket made it an 8-0 run and a 26-18 Knicks lead.
The Knicks got the lead to 10 before a Bullard three and bucket by Shandon made it 32-27, forcing a NY timeout.
The Rockets cut it to 34-30 and had the ball before the refs seized the momentum again. A mystery offensive foul on Kenny Thomas, then another 5 seconds later on the defensive end gave him 4 fouls with still over 4 minutes left in the second quarter. New York ran off 4 straight points and Rudy, livid over all the BS calls, called timeout.
The Knicks put up 4 more points, taking a 42-30 lead. When Walt threw up a brick as the half expired, the Rockets had not scored in the final 5+ minutes of the second quarter.
The game up to this point was dog ass ugly. The Rockets shot 33.3% -- awful. But unbelievably the Knicks shot lower at 32.5%. The difference however was the Knicks had some help from the striped ones. The Rockets were called for 15 personal fouls to the Knicks five. The Knicks had 15 points off of 16 shots from the free throw line.
The Rockets had one free throw attempt the entire half.
Shandon and Francis each had 10 at intermission.
The third quarter started out with more of the same and the Knicks built the lead up to 14 before the Rockets exploded.
Houston, behind the play of Shandon Anderson, scored 15 points in 3 minutes and when Walt Williams nailed a three, the Rockets had come all the way back, trimming the lead to 2 at 47-45.
When Mobley nailed a three, the Rockets had tied the game at 50, making it a 17-3 Houston run. The Rockets actually took the lead with a free throw, but the Knicks/refs finished the third on a 10-2 run and led 60-55 heading in to the fourth.
The fourth started with Chris Childs hitting a three, then a horrendous offensive charge call on Cuttino Mobley -- it was the 8th offensive foul on the night called on the Rockets.
Allan Houston grabbed his own board off an errant three and drained a 16-footer, putting the Knicks up 10.
How bad was the officating? Mobley got called for a technical for cussing at himself for missing a shot. At himself. Talk about some seriously whistle-happy jackasses.
It bounced between 8 and 10 points but it was frustrating for the Rockets. After Francis scored and the Rockets got the ball back with a chance to cut it to 6, Walt Williams was called for yet another unbelievably bad offensive charge call.
When Mo Taylor nailed a hook with 4:12 to go though it was 73-67 Knicks. After 2 more free throws, they got within 4, but Allan Houston nailed a jumper and it was 75-69.
From there the Rockets cut it to 75-73 by playing some solid defense, and after again playing great "D" and forcing a Latrell Sprewell miss with 1:06 left, the Rockets had a chance to tie. They worked it around and Shandon Anderson was fouled on a baseline drive.
He missed the first free throw however, to the enormous delight of the Knicks fans, but he made the second. 75-74 Knicks.
With 33.3 seconds left Mobley was called for a foul and the Knicks inbounded once more. The inbound worked its way to Allan Houston who drove and Mobley defended extremely well, while the rest of the Rockets helped out to force the miss.
Mo Taylor snared the board. Rocket timeout, with 18.8 seconds left down 1.
Mobley got the ball and brought it up slowly, and have to admit I thought, "Oh damn." Mobley, with Sprewell all over him, went right and around baseline for a gorgeous under the hoop baseline layin.
Rockets 76, Knicks 75. 8.7 seconds left.
It's amazing the Knicks got the ball inbounds because the Rockets defense was swarming. They barely got it in. Larry Johnson got it, faked Mo Taylor in the air and tried to draw a bogus foul. Surprisingly, the refs didn't bite... the shot missed.
Game over... the Madison Square Garden crowd was stunned.