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Houston wins fifth straight

3/14/2004

HOUSTON (AP) -- The longest winning streak in the Western
Conference doesn't belong to the Memphis Grizzlies anymore. The
Houston Rockets stole that distinction away.

Jim Jackson scored 20 points and hit a crucial running jumper
with 50 seconds to play as the Rockets won their fifth straight
game, 88-80 over Memphis on Saturday night to snap the Grizzlies'
seven-game winning streak.

Jackson had 10 points in the fourth quarter when the Rockets
committed eight of their 17 turnovers and had their 12-point lead
cut to six on two occasions.

"He's been doing this for a long time," James Posey said.
"They put the ball in his hands and he put the nail in the coffin.
He made some big shots in the fourth quarter."

The Rockets worked hard to beat the Grizzlies for the first time
this season.

"That's a team that beat us twice, and plus they're playing the
best since the All-Star break," Jackson said. "There are a lot of
reasons why we really had to walk in and win this game."

Houston built a 78-64 lead early in the fourth quarter, its
biggest of the game, but the Grizzlies cut it to six points on two
occasions, the last with 2:11 to play on a basket by Pau Gasol.

Jackson's jumper made it 84-76, and he also hit two free throws
with 28 seconds to play and two more with 14 seconds to go.

"He knows when he has to step up," Yao Ming said. "He's over
30 years old and has played in the NBA over 10 years and he knows
what he has to do."

Yao had 17 points and 11 rebounds and blocked a shot by Gasol
with 44 seconds to go.

"I'm happy with the win, but I also know things never stay the
same in this league," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "You
have to have an urgency. Our team in particular has to compete at a
high level. There's no room or margin for error."

A victory would have assured the Grizzlies of their first
winning season.

"Yao Ming is the second-best force in the game and Steve
Francis is one of the top guards, so they should be pretty good,"
Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said. "I like what they've done with
their defense. They've won some big games recently."

Stromile Swift led Memphis with 19 points and Bonzi Wells added
16.

The Grizzles cut Houston's 52-41 halftime lead to 63-56 with
4:30 to go in the third quarter, but the Rockets built it back to a
70-58 lead on a quick run of a basket by Maurice Taylor and a
driving layup and 3-pointer by Jackson.

The Rockets were trailing 28-25 early in the second quarter when
they went on an 18-4 charge. Scott Padgett came off the bench to
score eight points in the run.

Cuttino Mobley, who broke out of a shooting slump in the
previous game with 31 points, added seven in second quarter to help
the Rockets get their 52-41 halftime lead. Mobley finished with 15
points.

"We're just trying to get to the playoffs the best way
possible," Mobley said. "That's a good team, they play hard and
they're scrappy. They got away from us twice this year and we've
still got to go up there, but it's going to be fun."

Game notes
Houston F Clarence Weatherspoon did not play because of a
left calf strain. ... The Rockets complete a five-game homestand
Monday and then will play 11 of their final 16 games on the road.
... The Grizzlies are 14-8 in games decided by five or fewer
points. ... The Rockets are 29-6 when leading after the first
quarter. ... Prior to this season's breakout, the Grizzlies' best
season was last year's 28-54 record.