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Francis powers Houston down the stretch

11/4/2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Steve Francis found a way to make
up for missing every shot in the first half. He simply didn't miss
with the game on the line.

Francis ignited a game-ending 14-1 run with eight straight
points and an assist to lead the Houston Rockets to an 86-75
victory Tuesday night over the New Jersey Nets.

"I was frustrated," said Francis, who finished with 17 points,
10 rebounds and six assists after going 0-for-8 in the first half.

"When you're not making shots, you're going to be upset about
it," Francis added. "Coach calmed down. He told me he wouldn't
play me the rest of the game if I kept acting like a fool. He told
me winners forget the first half and come back in the second
half."

The coach Francis was talking about was Jeff Van Gundy. The
Rockets' new head man is 3-1 since taking over a talented team and
teaching it how to play defense.

The Rockets came into the game leading the NBA in scoring
defense, and they were tenacious in the fourth quarter, limiting
New Jersey to 4-for-18 shooting from the field.

"The Nets are a tough team but I figured if we could at least
try to stop their fast break, you've got a better chance," said
Cuttino Mobley, who led Houston with 20 points. "We played solid.
We made them take jump shots. Luckily they missed a few of them and
we got to fast break."

New Jersey, which played without forwards Kenyon Martin and
Rodney Rogers and shooting guard Lucious Harris, shot 33.8 percent
for the game.

"I am really proud of our guys but I don't think you can
minimize who is out for the Nets," Van Gundy said after coaching
his first game in the New York area since resigning as coach of the
Knicks in December 2001.

Richard Jefferson had 21 points to lead the Nets, who looked a
little listless. Jason Kidd added 16 points, seven rebounds and
nine assists in a performance that was misleading because he had 13
points in the first quarter.

Kidd had no points or rebounds in the fourth quarter, and three
assists.

"We never had a run in the second half, so we never had
momentum," Kidd said.

Maurice Taylor added eight of his 14 points in the final
quarter, while Yao Ming added 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Yao wasn't overly impressive in a game that only drew 11,784
fans, but his performance was highlighted by a baseline drive and
dunk around Alonzo Mourning in the first half and a late baseline
jumper set up by Francis.

The Nets took their last lead at 74-72 on a 3-pointer by Brian
Scalabrine with 4:24 to play.

Francis then took over. He tied the game with a 20-foot jumper,
and put the Rockets ahead with a layup after Kerry Kittles missed a
jumper.

A missed layup by Jefferson led to a fast break that ended with
Francis hitting two free throws for a 78-74 lead with three minutes
to play.

Francis then stole the ball from Kidd in the frontcourt and hit
a layup. He also set up Yao's basket from the baseline for an 82-74
lead

Mobley and Francis added jumpers before the final buzzer.

"It was game we had control, but we just couldn't get stops and
we definitely couldn't get baskets in the fourth quarter," Kidd
said.<
^Notes@: A videotape replay at the end of the third quarter showed
that a 3-pointer by Houston's Maurice Taylor came after the buzzer.
It was originally called good. ... Rogers had a lacerated thumb.
Martin has a sprained ankle and Harris has a bad back. ...Mourning
finished with eight points. ...The Rockets won despite 22
turnovers, 10 more than the Nets.