HOUSTON (AP) -- Out of the playoffs for the last four years, the
Houston Rockets are approaching the second half of the season with
a little more urgency.
"Coach gave us some good advice yesterday in practice," said
Steve Francis, who contributed 11 points and seven assists. "He
really wants us to focus on these last 30 games.
"He told us to think of every game as a one-game playoff
series, and that's what we're going to have to do if we're going to
get where we want to go," he said.
The Rockets improved to 31-22 under first-year coach Jeff Van
Van Gundy was impressed with Houston's 34 assists.
"We did some good things. We made some extra passes," he said.
"I think Steve created a lot of those shots."
"I think the assist numbers were impressive. It just shows we
were able to move the ball around tonight and were able to get guys
open," Francis said.
Etan Thomas had 13 points to lead the Wizards, who lost for the
ninth time in 10 trips to Houston. Washington hasn't won in Houston
since Dec. 6, 2001.
"It's not the end of the world," coach Eddie Jordan said.
"Our bench played well and our starters didn't. We didn't get any
leadership from our veterans. It was a very poor performance from
Houston reeled off 12 straight points late in the first quarter
with the help of four consecutive turnovers by Washington. It was
part of a 16-2 run over the final 3:47 of the period that netted a
30-18 lead. Cato had 10 that quarter.
Houston went on a 10-2 run early in the second quarter. Yao had
10 in the period as the lead reached 57-34 after a 10-0 run.
Jackson's 14 points topped the Rockets as they led 57-37 at the
Houston's lead got as big as 31 points in the third quarter. All
five starters had already reached double figures in points and
Houston led 84-53 after three.
The lead reached 34 in the fourth quarter with Rockets' starters
sitting out most of the period.
The Rockets are 7-0 when scoring 100 or more points this
season. ... Yao is averaging 18.5 points and 9.9 rebounds in wins
and 13.8 and 7.9 in losses. ... The Rockets are 6-0 when Yao blocks
four shots in a game this season. ...Houston is 9-1 in their first
game after the All-Star break dating to the 1992-93 season. ... The
Wizards 5-21 road record, including 1-7 against the Western
Conference, is the worst in the league.
Even though the Cavs let the Hawks back in the game after an 18-point lead, LeBron James proved to be too much for Atlanta down the stretch.
Good defense leads to great offense as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving run the give-and-go to perfection, and the play ends with a massive dunk by James against the Hawks in the third quarter.
LeBron James drills a fairly uncontested 3-pointer, which causes LeBron to look into the camera and shrug in surprise at the lack of defense by the Hawks.