Three charging fouls leave Francis in foul mood

HOUSTON (AP) -- If they couldn't stop Steve Francis, the Los Angeles Clippers decided to see if he would stop himself Tuesday

The strategy worked as Francis fouled out with 3:21 to play during a crucial 11-0 Clippers run as Los Angeles defeated the Houston Rockets 94-84.

Francis had 25 points but was in foul trouble late. During a
timeout with 3:33 to play, Jeff McInnis told Elton Brand to let Francis' aggressiveness work against him.

"We were extending our defense out front then," McInnis said. "We saw Francis wanted to isolate on people and drive inside. During the timeout, I told Elton, I don't think he can stop himself when he goes inside.

"I told him to just wait for him when he goes to the middle."

Brand liked the idea, since Francis already had two charging fouls in the second half to give him five for the game. Francis was soon called for his sixth.

"Jeff said if he penetrated to step up and take the charge," Brand said. "We had a 2- or 3-point lead at the time. He's a great player and it was good to get him off the court."

Francis left and the Clippers opened a 92-82 lead with 1:02 to play. Houston went 4:40 without scoring during that span and did not have a field goal in the final 5:40.

"We played some good defense in that run," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We also took three charging fouls and that was big."

Predictably, the Rockets didn't like the officiating.

"Three offensive fouls by the same ref," Francis said. "That really hurt. That killed me. It's hard to believe that happened. When I try to break down a defense and go to the basket, they were waiting.

"It was a good 3½ quarters."

Cuttino Mobley, who had 27 points, also thought Francis' sixth foul was a turning point.

"That's not paying attention to the game," Mobley said of the officiating. "We're penetrators. It's going to make us more cautious. They (the Clippers) are going to flop down there."

Brand had 26 points and 15 rebounds. McInnis scored four of his 15 points and Brand had five in the run that gave the Clippers a 92-82 lead.

The Rockets, who had their two-game winning streak snapped, have not won three straight since Nov. 4-6-8 against Phoenix, Denver and Philadelphia.

McInnis' 3-pointer with a second left in the first quarter gave
him nine points in the period and completed an 11-4 run over the
final 3½ minutes for a 29-23 lead after one quarter.

Francis scored 13 in the second quarter, giving him 20 for the
half, and Oscar Torres hit a 3-pointer as Houston took its first
lead, 50-48 with 33 seconds to play. Earl Boykins' jumper seven seconds later knotted the score at 50-50 for halftime.

Brand scored 11 in the third period but Mobley answered with 10
as the Rockets had a 71-70 advantage after three.

Game notes
Clippers C Michael Olowokandi missed the game with a left knee sprain. He is day-to-day. ... Kevin Willis needs eight rebounds to surpass Elgin Baylor's 11,463 for 20th place on the
NBA's all-time rebounding list. ... The Clippers are 7-6 in the first game of back-to-backs this season and 4-9 in second games. They beat Memphis on Monday night.


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