HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets clinched a playoff berth for
the first time in five years Friday night, but they don't want this
to be the high point of their season.
The Rockets defeated the Denver Nuggets 106-103 behind a
season-high 33 points from Steve Francis, who is headed to the
playoffs for the first time in his five-year career.
Although confetti dropped from the rafters at the end of the
game, the Rockets weren't in much of a festive mood in the locker
"Since my rookie year, all I've wanted to do was be in the
playoffs," Francis said. "But it's like coach (Jeff Van Gundy)
said, we don't want to be complacent. We want to move up. We have
games to play and we don't want to just show up.
"We want to go in the playoffs on a good note. We know we can
play with anybody. Tonight was a good game for us and we want to
try and keep the same mentality. We don't want to settle for just
being in the playoffs. We want to make some noise in them."
Cuttino Mobley, who had 22 points, hopes for better things in
"Now the monkey is off our backs," Mobley said. "But the
monkey will probably come back when we get in the playoffs. A lot
of the good teams beat us in close games, but now we have to go out
and play hard and see what happens."
Yao Ming, who had 12 points and six rebounds, knows making the
playoffs is important to the veterans.
"You can tell more from the other players because they've been
here longer," Yao said. "They have more of a feeling for it. It's
like New Year's to me."
Marcus Camby scored 23 points and Carmelo Anthony had 20 as the
Nuggets lost for the sixth straight time in Houston. Denver dropped
into a three-way tie with Utah and Portland for eighth place in the
"The third quarter was the difference," Andre Miller said.
"They started hitting open shots. The shots they missed in the
first half, they made."
Camby pointed to Saturday's game against Portland as being huge
for the Nuggets.
"It's frustrating (losing Friday) but it's not the end of the
world," Camby said. "The good thing about the NBA is you get to
play again tomorrow. We play Portland tomorrow at home. That's a
big game because we're still tied for eighth with them.
"We have two more games at home. We just have to take care of
business. It's not going to be easy. We're playing tough
Francis hit four free throws and Mobley made a 3-pointer in a
span of 1:35 to give Houston its biggest lead, 99-92 with 2:29 to
Nene hit a follow shot with 18 seconds left to pull the Nuggets
to 104-103, and Jim Jackson's two free throws with 17 seconds to go
made it 106-103.
Rodney White missed a desperation 3-point shot with five seconds
to play and Miller missed a 25-footer at the buzzer.
Mobley scored 22 and Jackson 17 for Houston.
Mobley and Francis each had seven points in a 16-5 run in the
third quarter that gave Houston its first lead since the opening
Francis had 15 third-quarter points as the Rockets led 78-73
going into the final quarter.
Nene scored eight points in the first quarter as the Nuggets led
by as many as eight. They hit 63 percent (12-of-19) of their shots
in the quarter and were on top 26-21 entering the second quarter.
Denver expanded the lead to 48-33 with Camby contributing six
points in a 16-6 run in the second quarter. Camby had 12 and the
Nuggets were shooting 59 percent (23-of-39) as they led 52-42 at
Houston needed a victory of its own and a loss by Portland
to clinch. ... The Rockets' 36 points were their most this season
in a third quarter and tied their best in any quarter. ... Houston
is 10-0 when shooting 50 percent from the field and 13-1 when it
scores 100 points ... Denver is 9-2 the last 11 times it has scored
100 or more points.