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Kobe, Mailman pick up slack

4/24/2004

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets somehow found a way to make
Shaquille O'Neal a non-factor for half of the game, and a pair of
late acrobatic baskets by Steve Francis clinched things after
O'Neal finally got aggressive again.

The Rockets defeated the Lakers 102-91 Friday night, cutting Los
Angeles' lead to 2-1 in their best-of-seven Western Conference
playoff series.

It was a rare Game 3 loss on the road for a team coached by Phil
Jackson with a 2-0 series lead. His teams, when given a chance to
take an all-but-insurmountable 3-0 lead, have historically gotten
it.

In this case, however, the Lakers got away from what was working
early, and by the time they went back to an O'Neal-dominated
offense in the final 12 minutes it was too late.

Francis had 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Cuttino
Mobley added 21 points, Yao Ming scored 18 and Maurice Taylor came
off the bench to add 16 as the Rockets thrilled their fans in the
first playoff game in Houston since 1999.

The series resumes with Game 4 Sunday.