The Kings got hot.
The Rockets got screwed.
Sacramento had the first quarter of their dreams -- hitting their first 14 shots (17-19 overall) for an incredible 46 points -- but the Rockets came charging back early in the third quarter to cut the Kings' once 20-point lead down to 7.
That was before one ref made a colossal mistake.
Referee Bill Kennedy handed Steve Francis his second technical foul for nothing more than a hard dunk, and with Francis out of the way, the Kings went ape nuts and built up a 24-point lead over the next 5 minutes.
Ballgame. Sacramento 125, Houston 109.
If you saw the call you know the problem... because of nothing more than a dunk with flare, an official put a big fat asterick next to an incredibly exciting game, and in the process gave a black eye to a league desperate for the fan attention it once had.
If the league doesn't do anything to investigate Kennedy's call they should be ashamed of themselves. Whether the Rockets would have completed their comeback is unknown, but without a doubt it severely crippled the effort.
Rudy T wouldn't even talk about it after the game and said Cuttino Mobley, "I'm going to hold my tongue. I'm so mad right now, I really don't feel like talking."
It wastes a strong performance from Mobley, who went off for 30 points on 11-15 shooting -- this after being named the NBA's Player of the Week. Without Cuttino the Rockets would have been slaughtered by 50.
Francis, before being yanked from the game, scored 16 points on 6-11 shooting.
Regardless, the Kings were unreal... Peja Stojakovic scored 29 points to lead them while Chris Webber, hopefully playing out his last few games in Sacramento, completed a triple double with 28 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Good gosh.
Vlade Divac added 21 points and 9 boards.
Carlos Rogers played well off the bench, hitting 6-9 shots for 13 points while Matt Bullard added 11. The good news was seeing Dan Langhi and Sean Colson play solid minutes in the garbage time fourth quarter. Langhi scored 4 points while Colson had -- get this -- 6 points and 6 assists in just 6 minutes of action.
The Rockets hit their first 3 shots, but the Kings were equally hot, and after a Doug Christie three and a Predrag Stojakovic drive, the Kings led 9-6.
Shots were flying... Mo Taylor scored two field goals, but after a Stojakovic three, the Kings led 14-10 and only about 3 minutes had gone by. After Jason Williams hit a triple then Webber converted a beautiful three-point play, Rudy T had to call timeout with the Rockets down 10. It was 22-12 and there was still 7:22 left in the first quarter.
It just kept getting worse... Williams, Divac, Webber, Stojakovic...
It was ridiculous.... the Kings could not miss. ABSOLUTELY ON FIRE like I've seen no team before.... when Doug Christie hit a long bomb, the Kings led 35-18 and they had not missed a shot from the field. They were 13-13. There was still 4 minutes left in the first quarter! Timeout Rockets.
Cuttino responded with a triple, a jumper in the lane and a tip-in off a Francis miss to bring the Rockets within 35-25, but Webber hit a jumper to make it 14-14 Kings, and when the Kings finally missed, a Divac missed layup, he got his own board and put it back in.
Even when things looked good it turned out bad. Francis on a fast break travelled and couldn't believe the call. For hopping up and down and complaining the refs T'ed him up.
When Scott Pollard slammed home a Webber miss, it was 44-27 and it was the FIRST QUARTER. The first quarter! On the next play Mobley drove and got tangled up with Doug Christie and the frustration was evident... he threw his elbows and stared down Christie. Francis came over and bitched at him. Looked like fisticuffs could break out at any moment...
THE DAMAGE: After one, 46-29 Kings. 17-19 from the field. 90% shooting. Jason Williams had 11 points and 6 assists. Webber 11, Stojakovic 9 and Christie 9... it overshadowed a great quarter by Cuttino, who had 14. Keep in mind the Rockets shot almost 57% in the first quarter... and were down 17.
Mobley didn't let the Rockets get too far down ... after Cuttino found Rogers for a fast break slam dunk and then found KT who scored and got fouled on a drive, the Rockets were down 12 at 49-37.
When Bullard was fouled trying to shoot a three, and made 2-3 at the line, the Rockets were within 53-43. Two more free throws, these by Francis, cut it to 8, but Webber immediately hit a jumper than Bobby Jackson and Hidayet Turkoglu hit back-to-back threes (Sacramento now 7-8 from three-ball country) and the Kings led 61-47.
Divac followed that with a 20-footer and before you could blink the Kings' lead was back to 16 points.
Still, Francis hit two free throws then a long jumper before half, and the Rockets were lucky to escape the first half down just 12, 66-54. Mobley led the Rockets with 17 while Francis had 14 -- 8 in the second period. Stojakovic and Webber led the Kings with 14 a piece.
After hitting 17-19 shots in the first period, the Kings connected on just 8-19 in the second. The Kings were 7-8 from long range... the Rockets? 1-8.
Mo Taylor scored on a gorgeous drive, then he stole a pass and the Rockets ran. It ended up in Francis' hands and he slammed it home to cut it to 8.
Then came the single worst call I've seen in years. Because Francis jumped up and appeared to scream after dunking, the refs gave him a technical -- his second -- and tossed him from the game. He dunked it and they tossed him... an absolutely great game with the Rockets starting to come back and the refs take away our best player.
Can't tell you what garbage that was. You could tell it totally pissed off the Rockets... Cato and Vlade mixed it up and almost came to blows.
And what do you know.... the Kings go off on an 8-0 run to build the lead back up to 15.
A Stojakovic three-point play and a Webber dunk boosted the Kings lead just like that to 19 and the Rockets were forced to call timeout. Francis-less Rockets reeling...
After Doug Christie stole and scored, the Kings led 96-72 and it was a total rout.
After three: Kings 96, Rockets 73. Sacramento closed the third on a 30-15 run after Francis was ejected.
The fourth was mostly garbage time... Mobley got up to 30 points and was pulled and the Kings pulled most of their starters... but the Rockets' bench made a mini-run. After Carlos Rogers scored and got fouled, the Rockets capped a 7-0 run and cut it to 106-95 with over 6:20 to go.
Adelman put back in his starters immediately.
From there the Kings kept the Rockets at bay, with the lone bright spots being good PT for Dan Langhi and Sean Colson.