Hakeem's on a roll, and not coincidentally enough, so are the Rockets.
Hakeem Olajuwon continues to turn back the clock, scoring 15 points and grabbing a season-high 20 rebounds, as the Rockets handled the Washington Wizards 99-89 Tuesday night.
The win is the Rockets' 4th straight and puts them over .500 at 26-25.
Olajuwon, who also added 4 steals and 3 blocks in his 34 minutes, was the difference -- after doing this now for four games straight, one could conclude this is no fluke: Hakeem really does have a good chunk left in the 38-year old tank.
While Olajuwon dominated the boards, blocks and steals like the Dream of Old, Steve Francis simply led all scorers with 29 points. The combination of Francis-Hakeem, young-old has looked fantastic.
As if that wasn't good enough news, the return of Shandon Anderson from "Plenty-O-Zeros" in Box Score Land, made it even better. When the Rockets looked flat early, it was Shandon who got them jumpstarted, being aggressive and taking it strong to the hole. He hit 6-8 shots and finished with 17 points, 6 boards and 4 assists.
Maurice Taylor also added 16 points and 5 boards in just 28 minutes (saddled with foul problems) while Cuttino Mobley, who hit just 7-20 shots, knocked down 16 to boot. It won't be Mobley's box score that gets the attention however but rather his 70-foot bomb from the free throw line on the other end of the court at the end of the first quarter.
Got nothing but net.
The starters scored 93 of the team's 99 points -- 4 came from Walt Williams and 2 from Moochie Norris.
The Rockets got it done with defense however, holding the Wizards to 35.6% shooting and knocking down shots at 46% clip themselves.
Shandon Anderson was about the only Rocket doing any scoring, putting up 5 quick points, but after Michael Smith made a layup on a drive, the Wizards led 9-7 at the 6:00 minute mark of the first quarter.
After Richard Hamilton scored again, Washington had a 15-11 edge, but after a Francis three and another strong Shandon drive the Rockets regained the lead 18-17.
Washington regained momentum however and after scoring with 0.8 seconds left in the quarter they were up 27-22... that was before Cuttino Mobley absolutely swished an almost full-court bomb, from the Wizards' free throw line, drawing a roar from the crowd and cutting the deficit to 2.
Mobley's shot was probably 70+ feet out -- unbelievable! Francis and Shandon each had 9 for Houston while Hamilton had 8 points for Washington.
The defense was horrible for the Rockets and pretty uninspired. After Gerard King nailed a wide open 16-footer, it was 38-31 Washington.
One gorgeous play though saw Dream swat Tyrone Nesby and Mobley picked up the loose ball, ran the other way and found Francis for a sky-high picture-perfect alleyoop, cutting it to 38-35.
The Rockets couldn't quite get over the hump -- Washington led by 1-5 points for several minutes, and with 3:32 left in the half, they trailed 47-43.
Houston awoke however and finally took the lead at 48-47 when Shandon Anderson blocked Mitch Richmond and went coast to coast with 1:54 left in the half. The run ended up being 11-1 for Houston, taking a 54-47 lead at halftime.
Francis scored another 9 in the second period, giving him 18 at half. Shandon had 11 while Hakeem had 6 points and 10 rebounds. Richard Hamilton led the Wizards with 16.
After 4 quick points by the Wizards, the Rockets, led by Mo Taylor, picked up the offensive intensity. After Mo nailed a jumper over Juwan Howard, the Rockets led 64-51 with roughly 7 minutes to go.
It was 78-65 Rockets heading in to the fourth. Francis led all scorers with 22 points, Shandon 15 and Mo 14 (8 in the third period). Hakeem had 10 points, 4 steals and 16 boards in just 18 minutes.
The Wizards made their run to start the fourth. Popeye Jones made some buckets, and after Tyrone Nesby scored a deuce, the Rockets had to halt the action with a T.O., leading by just 7 at 82-75.
But then Stevie Franchise stepped up to kill the rally.
Francis nailed back to back threes, giving him 28 points, and putting the Rockets up 88-75 in the wink of an eye. Shandon followed that up with a 12-foot bank shot, making it an 8-0 Rocket run out of the timeout and a 15-point lead.
The Rockets had enough gas in the tank from there, and all that was left for Hakeem to get 20 rebounds, which he did with just over a minute left.