Grizzlies' Wright says Rockets better minus Francis

HOUSTON (AP) -- Playing without star guard Steve Francis didn't seem to bother the Houston Rockets.

Cuttino Mobley scored 29 points and the Rockets held off a late
Memphis Grizzlies rally for a 93-82 victory Saturday night, despite
Francis being sidelined with a strained lower back.

"I knew I had to pick up the slack without Steve,'' Mobley
said. "There are roles that you've got to take on and I had to
take on that role tonight. Moochie (Norris) was great. He got the
ball around to everybody and he ran the team well.

"He was the general out there.''

Mobley had 20 points in the first half as the Rockets snapped a
three-game home losing streak. Yao Ming had 18 points and seven
rebounds while Norris, starting in place of Francis, had nine
points and nine assists.

"I just wanted to come in and make plays,'' Norris said. "I'm
not going to shoot the ball and try to score 20-plus points like
Steve. I'm more of a playmaker. I think I did my job tonight. I did
my job, we got the win and the coaches were happy.''

Francis will be reevaluated on Monday prior to a game at Boston
but Grizzlies forward Lorenzen Wright thought the Rockets might
have even been better off with Francis nursing his injuries.

"They play better when he's not out there,'' Wright said.
"That lets the other guys show what they can do. The other guys
pick up their game. He carries so much of the scoring, when he's
not out there, everybody else can play and divide it evenly.''

The Rockets held a 25-point lead at 84-59 early in the fourth
but the Grizzlies outscored Houston 23-10 in the final quarter to
make the game close.

Wright led Memphis with 24 points and tried to slow Yao.

"I'm normally not that aggressive, but tonight I wanted to come
out aggressive, because he's so big, I can't shoot over him, I had
to go around him,'' Wright said.

Leading 56-45 at the half, Houston used a 21-5 run over the
final 6:52 of the third quarter to take an 83-59 lead. Memphis was
playing its second game in as many nights, after losing to New
Orleans 125-123 in overtime Friday night.

Mobley scored 11 first-quarter points and Glen Rice scored 12 in
the second as the Rockets used a 13-3 run to take a 56-45 halftime

"Cat (Mobley) had a big game,'' Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich
said. "He loves these situations. He did it all the time last
year. Cat carried us tonight.''

The Rockets used a 15-4 run to take a 23-12 lead in the first
quarter. The Grizzlies scored the next four baskets before Maurice
Taylor's basket ended a 3:50 scoreless run for the Rockets and gave
them a 25-21 lead heading into the second quarter.

"It was one of the poorest efforts we've had in a long time
and, despite that, we were able to get close in the second half,''
Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get it

Tomjanovich watched Yao closely in the closing minutes of the

"He's tired,'' Tomjanovich said. "He's mentally tired more so
than physically. I've told him through his interpreter some
techniques I used when I played to try to rest your mind.''

Game notes
Prior to the game, the Grizzlies activated guard Brevin
Knight and placed forward Ryan Humphrey on the injured list with a
sprained left ankle. Knight had been on the injury list since Feb.
12 with a sprained right wrist. ... Rockets starting forward James
Posey strained his left knee in the third quarter and did not

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