Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/24

Game 1: Monday, November 24th
Game 2: Friday, December 19th
Game 3: Tuesday, March 9th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 7th

Clippers 85

(26-37, 8-23 away)

Rockets 90


    7:30 PM ET, March 9, 2004

    Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    1 2 3 4 T
    LAC 20 19 27 1985
    HOU 18 18 29 2590

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles: C. Maggette 26 Pts, 8 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

    Houston: S. Francis 24 Pts, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 5 Stl

    Yao produces down the stretch

    HOUSTON (AP) -- After defeating quality opponents -- Minnesota and Dallas -- in successive games, the Houston Rockets almost stumbled against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.

    Steve Francis had 24 points and Yao Ming scored eight of his 19 points in a fourth-quarter rally in the Houston Rockets' 90-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

    "The important thing was at the key moments we were able to pick it up," Yao said. "It was something that came from within. We beat the Mavs and the T-wolves, and we didn't want to lose to these guys."

    The Rockets gained their third straight victory and their fifth in a row over the Clippers, but it took a final-period spurt to do it.

    "There was some ugly, there was some pretty," guard Mark Jackson said. "The main thing is just getting the job done. And the good news is we're doing that now."

    Trailing 73-71 in the fourth quarter, Houston got the ball on a turnover by Bobby Simmons and Yao's basket tied it with 8:20 to play. A bad pass by Eddie House gave the Rockets their chance to go ahead, and Yao dunked for a 75-73 lead.

    The Rockets never trailed again, sending the Clippers to their seventh loss in nine games.

    Corey Maggette led Los Angeles with 26 points and Elton Brand added 16.

    "Our team did a lot of good things on defense but turnovers hurt us and the guys that were out hurt us," Maggette said. "Steve Francis made some great plays for them and Mark Jackson did a good job off the bench."

    Francis, in a shooting slump this season, hit 10 of 15 shots, helping the Rockets overcome a slow shooting start. Maurice Taylor had 15 points.

    "Steve's effort is what carried us," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "His hustle plays and his extra effort were just terrific."

    Trailing 63-56 in the closing minutes of the third quarter, the Rockets scored nine straight points, ending with Francis' 3-point basket with 4 seconds left for a 65-63 lead, one of Houston's few advantages in the game.

    It was short-lived because Maggette hit a 29-footer at the buzzer for a 66-65 lead going into the final period.

    The Clippers led most of the first half and broke from a 36-34 deficit late in the second quarter for a 39-36 halftime lead.

    Maggette had a dunk and free throw and Predrag Drobnjak sank a hook shot to give Los Angeles the advantage at intermission.

    Francis scored Houston's first seven points for a 7-4 lead, but the Clippers got 10 first-quarter points from Maggette for a 20-18 lead at the end of the opening period.

    Yao presented too many problems for the Clippers defense.

    "There is nothing you can do against him," said Chris Kaman, who fouled out in the fourth quarter. "If you beat him up, he's a good free throw shooter so he gets to the line and makes them. If you don't beat him up, he's tough to stop."

    Game notes

    Yao had hit 32 straight free throws, including his first two Tuesday night, before missing on his third attempt with 3:06 left in the second quarter. He hit 11 of 12 on the night. Yao hadn't missed a free throw since Feb. 27 against Portland. ... Quentin Richardson has a sprained back. ... Brand has 34 double-doubles this season. He's fifth in the NBA in that category. ... The Rockets have used the same starting lineup in 60 of 63 games this season.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 85 90
    FGM-FGA 33-72 (.458) 31-74 (.419)
    3PM-3PA 3-16 (.188) 3-11 (.273)
    FTM-FTA 16-20 (.800) 25-33 (.758)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 6-36 8-40
    Assists 21 20
    Turnovers 19 16
    Steals 11 10
    Blocks 4 3
    Fast Break Points 7 7
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 28 (2/0) 19 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Corey Maggette Maggette
    Points: 26
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0
    Steve Francis Francis
    Points: 24
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 5
    Blk: 0