<
>

Francis explodes in second half to sink Jazz

2/5/2002

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets overcame injuries, illness
and Karl Malone.

Steve Francis shot 18-for-22 from the line and scored 33 points,
and Cuttino Mobley added 30 points to lead the Rockets to a 104-97
victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night.

Malone had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Jazz, who had their
three-game winning streak snapped.

Francis ignored a migraine headache, and Mobley overcame
dizziness to shoot 11-for-16 from the field.

In addition, Houston's starting center, Kelvin Cato, and backup
guard Moochie Norris were both in the hospital Monday morning
receiving intravenous fluids to help battle food poisoning. Cato
didn't make it to the game and Norris arrived late for warmups.

"It was a tremendous win for us," Rockets Rudy Tomjanovich
said. "We were short-handed again but our guys hung in there.
Moochie was hospitalized this morning and he showed amazing
character to play the way he did."

Norris, who averages more than 28 minutes, played just 17
Monday. He scored five of his seven points in a crucial 7-0 run,
helping Houston overcome its only deficit and take a 96-90 lead
with 2:39 left.

"I still felt bad," Norris said. "But I started feeling
better as the game went on. Coach knew I was just trying to
maintain and he adjusted my minutes accordingly.

"But I always feel better late in games. That's when it's the
most exciting."

Houston led by 13 points late in the fourth quarter when Utah
rallied behind Malone.

Malone scored seven points in a 9-3 run that gave the Jazz a
90-89 lead with 4:36 remaining.

After Norris initiated the seven-point run for the Rockets,
Francis then hit two free throws with 1:19 to play, Mobley made two
free throws with 57 seconds remaining and Terence Morris added a
pair of free throws that gave Houston a 102-92 lead with 41 seconds
left.

"It was tough," Francis said. "There were a lot of things
going on inside the game mentally that we had to prepare ourselves
for. But I think we all put our hearts in this game because we
always have a problem playing Utah."

The Jazz were impressed by Mobley and Francis.

"They were missing their big guys, so I thought they would be
aggressive and try to score," John Stockton said. "Mobley set the
tone and hit some big shots in the first half and Francis did the
same thing in the second half."

Kenny Thomas scored the Rockets' first seven points, Mobley
scored their next nine and Eddie Griffin hit a 3-pointer to help
Houston to a 19-9 lead in the first six minutes.

Mobley scored 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, and Thomas added
nine on 4-of-5 shooting as the Rockets shot 75 percent and built a
32-21 lead.

Malone scored six straight points in the second quarter and Utah
closed within 47-41.

Mobley shot 9-for-9 from the field and scored 22 first-half
points as the Rockets took a 55-45 lead into the break.

Houston shot 19-for-28 from the field in the opening half.

John Stockton scored five points in an 11-4 run as the Jazz
pulled within 62-58 with 7:14 left in the third. Houston led 77-73
after three quarters.

Thomas left the game with a strained left calf late in the third
quarter. He finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Game notes
The Jazz were playing the first of a nine-game, 28-day road
trip necessitated by the Olympics. ... Utah has won 16 of 19 games
against the Rockets. ... The Rockets are 1-3 this season in games
Cato has missed.