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3/17/2001 - San Antonio Express-News
Best bracket? Worst case
3/16/2001 - Houston Chronicle
Magical run lets Rockets break Spurs' spell
3/16/2001 - Houston Chronicle
With win, Rockets make statement
3/16/2001 - Houston Chronicle
Bullard returns with a vengeance
3/16/2001 - San Antonio Express-News
Spurs blow lead, winning streak
Twin Towers Toppled
Francis, Mobley combine to end San Antonio jinx with 103-99 stunner
By Clutch
MARCH 17, 2001 9:43 PM  |  BOX SCORE  |  HISTORY VS. SPURS

With all due respect to Bullard and Mobley (without either one the Rockets lose the game), it was Francis who led this team back in the third quarter, and scored 25 points alone in the second half.
Played very few minutes and looked very sloppy handling the ball in the second quarter.
Take that, 11-game losing streak.

The Rockets, trailing by 20 points at one point, showed tremendous heart and composure as the Rockets came back and upended the #1 team in the West with a 103-99 thriller.

Houston actually led by 10 with just over 3 minutes to go then held on for dear life.

It ends a personal slide against the Spurs that dates back to the 1997-98 season and also snaps the Spurs current 9-game win streak. The Rockets, now 38-29, are smoking hot, having won 16 of their last 20 games.

The Suns also lost in Dallas, which means the Rockets are just one back in the loss column to Minnesota (half-game) for the 8th seed and two losses back of Phoenix for the 7th seed.

Heroes roll call:

Steve Francis. He missed his first 4 shots from the field and was stuck with just 5 points at half. He exploded for 14 in the third period and another 11 in the fourth -- finishing with 30, 11 assists and 5 boards.

In the third quarter, when the Rockets came flying back to take the lead, Francis strapped the team on his back and carried them. He also grabbed the offensive board off a Mobley missed three with 10 seconds left in the game -- the Spurs had to foul, Francis made both freebies and the game was over. He was terrific...

However, when the Rockets were making their late run and about to seize the game, Francis missed two key jumpers that kept the Spurs hopes alive.

Hero #2: That's where Cuttino Mobley stepped in.

Mobley was dominated early on by the Spurs offense, missing 11 of his first 15 shots, but he was fantastic in the second half, and with 43 seconds left and the Rockets up just 2, Cuttino hit a gutsy (and high on a difficulty level) 13-footer over two Spurs players.

Cat finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals. He was very energetic... his steal and slam early in the fourth helped the Rockets open up a close game and that pass he made to a cutting KT for a layup was from an unselfish kitty.

Starting guards? 56 points, 15 boards, 14 assists. This is why the Rockets are so hot.

But there's no win without hero #3: Matt Bullard.

Bottom line: The Rockets do not win this game without Matt Bullard.

Fresh off the IR... Bull hasn't even played in weeks, and here he comes in and drains 6 -- count 'em -- 6 three-pointers in just 7 attempts. 18 points from Matt and every one of them needed.

Maurice Taylor added 15 points on 6-13 from the floor. He, Kenny Thomas and Kelvin Cato combined to play terrific defense on Tim Duncan. Forget about Duncan's team-high 26 points and 15 boards... the Rockets held him to 11-28 shooting, a number which was beefed up by Duncan's strong performance late against Cato.

Did I tell you guys how awful the TV announcers for the Spurs are? They block out league pass here in Austin since we're "technically" in Spurs country and the two clowns doing the San Antonio call are a total joke. These guys were ripping the Rockets apart and bitching on every foul call, meanwhile, Derek Anderson could have tripped and fallen on the way back up the court and these jokers would have mentioned how graceful he was in doing so.

They also kept calling San Antonio the team with "the best record in the NBA" -- note to lackeys: Philly has a better record.

David Robinson was strong for the Spurs, blocking 4 shots and scoring 22 points while missing just 3 of his 12 shots. Derek Anderson, who fouled out late in the fourth, added 13.

Game Notes:
Maurice Taylor got off to a hot start, hitting 5-7 shots for 10 points in the first, but the Spurs still led 24-19 after one. Mobley added 7 points.

San Antonio jumped out early in the second... after a Spurs free throw it was 29-20, but Matt Bullard, fresh off the IR, hit a triple to cut the Rocket deficit to 6, but 4 more points for the Spurs, capped by an Avery Johnson jumper, built the Spurs' lead up to 10.

The Spurs defense was shutting down the Rockets -- they could get nothing going. When Derek Anderson nailed a long (and wide open) three, the Spurs led 38-25 and Rudy T had to call a timeout with 5:54 left in the half.

Jumpers by Avery Johnson and a pair by David Robinson.... the rout was totally on -- it was 44-25 Spurs and the Rockets couldn't put the ball in the hole.

Bullard hit a three with 37 seconds left in the half, and Francis drove down the middle of the lane for a runner with 3.6 left as the late flurry brought the Rockets to within 48-35 at the half.

The Rockets' offense was dismal and the Spurs' defense was exceptional -- The Rockets shot just 34% in the first half.

At the half, Taylor still led the Rockets with the 10 he got in the first quarter. Mobley had 9, but shot just 4-14 while Matt Bullard knocked down a pair of threes for 6 points. Kenny Thomas and Steve Francis shot a combined 2-10.

Aside from rebounding, the Rockets did a good job on Tim Duncan, holding him to 8 points on 3-13 shooting, but he did grab 9 boards. David Robinson was en fuego, hitting 5-7 for 11 points.

To start the third, Francis scored on a baseline drive then a drive in the lane (and foul -- though he missed the free throw). He even picked Tim Duncan's pocket on a rebound and found a streaking Mobley in the lane, but Cuttino blew the layup.

Still, when Bullard nailed another three, the Rockets were within 50-42 and the Spurs had to call timeout.

The Rockets got it down to 6 after a Francis steal and score, but a Porter three and alleyoop slam by Robinson put San Antonio back up 11 at 57-46.

Every time the Rockets whittled it to 8 Robinson and the Spurs would build their lead back up to 12. But when Francis stole an Avery Johnson pass and went the length of the court for the bucket and foul, the Rockets trailed 65-57.

Francis then hit two free throws and after a Cato block, Francis pulled up on a break and drained a triple. Another Duncan miss was followed by a Rocket tip-in and just like that the Rockets finished a 10-0 run and were within 65-64.

When Bullard nailed another triple with 1:12 left in the third, it was all tied up at 67 -- and ANOTHER three by Bullard -- his fifth -- gave the Rockets the lead 70-69.

After three, San Antonio 71, Houston 70. The Rockets can thank Francis. He had just 5 points at half and exploded for 14 in the third quarter alone, giving him 19, 8 assists and 4 boards through three. Bullard added 9 in the third -- all on three-pointers.

After Duncan scored to start the fourth, Bullard nailed his 6th three-pointer to tie it up at 73. When Mobley hit a three, the Rockets led 76-75. Cato hit 1-2 free throws and after yet another defensive stop, Mobley found KT off the baseline who drove, faked his man and scored the layup.

Fans going nuts. Timeout Spurs -- Rockets up 79-75 with 9:26 to go.

Avery Johnson hit a jumper, but Francis about broke Antonio Daniels' ankles on a drive and was fouled. He made both free throws.

Duncan scored, but Kenny Thomas followed with a 20-footer from the baseline. The Rockets doubled Duncan and Mobley knocked a Duncan pass and went the length of the court for a slam. Rockets up 85-79 as Cuttino ran back up the court screaming... when Francis followed with a long jumper the Rockets were up 8 with over 7 minutes to go.

Duncan scored on a three-point play, but Mobley got a board off a missed three, got a layup and foul -- his free throw put Houston up 90-82 with 6:30 to go.

Did you see the next play? Francis drove up under Tim Duncan baseline and made the most gorgeous left-handed reverse layup, putting the Rockets up 92-84. After Robinson hit 1-2 free throws, Francis was doubled and found Cato wide open underneath for a slam -- Rockets 94, Spurs 85.

When Duncan scored the Spurs were within 96-89, but Francis drained a three to put the Rocks up ten with 3:31 to go.

Duncan scored 4 straight to bring San Antonio within 6, then he bowled over Cato who drew a charge. Hilarious was listening to the Spurs TV announcers scream how this was a flop by Cato.... and they've been praising Daniels and AJ for drawing charges all night.

Still, when Terry Porter scored a layup with 1:41 to go, the Rockets were left clinging to a 4-point lead. Francis missed a long jumper, and with 1:03 left Duncan scored on a layup.

Unbelievable collapse.... the Rockets turned to Mobley. He isolated on the right side, drew the defense and took a tough shot with two guys in his face and no one under the basket.... he drained it.

Timeout San Antonio .... Rockets up 101-97 with 43.3 left.

Francis fouled Porter when going around a pick -- unfortunately a bad move -- and Porter made both with 32 seconds left. The Rockets milked the clock and found Mobley for three...

He missed... but Francis got the HUGE offensive board with 10 seconds left and San Antonio was forced to foul. Francis went to the line and made both.

Take that, San Antonio.


Clutch can be reached at clutch@clutchcity.net and also can be followed on Twitter



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