DENVER (AP) -- With the game on the line, Houston coach Rudy
Tomjanovich got the ball where he wanted it: into the hands of Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis.
Mobley scored 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, and Francis had 10 of his 21 points in the final period as the Rockets beat Denver 83-74 Friday night in the Nuggets' home opener.
Francis also had 13 rebounds and five assists for the Rockets,
who steadily expanded the three-point lead they had entering the
"The last game we passed the ball and didn't knock down shots,'' Francis said. "We knocked down big shots in this game. We got the ball to open guys. That's what helped us win down the stretch.''
Yao Ming scored his first NBA basket, finishing with two points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes. Mobley hit 12 of 13 free throws, a result of his challenging Denver inside.
"Coach told me last game that I did not go to the line enough, so this game I got a little more aggressive,'' Mobley said. "We're supposed to win these kinds of games to make the playoffs. No disrespect to Denver, but right now we are just a little better.''
Nuggets rookie coach Jeff Bzdelik said Mobley and Francis "were able to recognize time and score and how to get fouled and how to get to the line, how to make a play. Their experience really was an asset tonight.''
James Posey, who led the Nuggets with 16 points, agreed.
"Those are two good players right there,'' Posey said, "and the coach is going to put the ball in their hands.''
Posey's layup put Denver ahead 60-58 with 9:11 remaining, but
Houston outscored Denver 25-14 after that.
Mobley hit a 19-foot jumper, then a pair of free throws, and
Francis added a layup for a 64-61 lead. Francis' three-point play
made it 69-65, and Mobley followed with a 3-point basket for a
72-65 lead with 4:09 left.
Mobley iced it, stealing an inbounds pass and making a slam at
the other end for a 79-71 advantage with 1:11 to go.
Houston shot only 38 percent, but Denver was worse at 36 percent.
The Rockets were without Maurice Taylor, who served the second game of a five-game suspension for violating the NBA's substance abuse policy. Denver's Juwan Howard served the second game of a two-game suspension for fighting in the preseason.
Yao, the NBA's No. 1 overall draft choice who was scoreless in
his NBA debut Wednesday, entered with 3:44 left in the first
quarter. Yao got his first NBA points with an 11-foot turnaround
jumper with 10:41 left in the second.
The 7-foot-6 Yao missed his other four shots.
"Our big guy gave us seven boards in 12 or 13 minutes. I
thought it was great he was able to hit his first shot. He's still
a work in progress for us,'' Francis said.
Ryan Bowen's hook shot gave Denver its first lead since the opening period, 38-37. Despite scoring only 11 points on 19 percent shooting in the second, Houston retained the lead at halftime, 40-38.
Mobley had eight points in the third quarter, including four straight free throws late in the period.
Houston's Glen Rice (strained right knee) and Kenny Thomas
(broken right thumb) were not in uniform for the second straight
game. ... Before the game, the crowd was asked to observe a moment
of silence for former Nuggets forward Bison Dele (Brian Williams),
who was lost at sea this summer and is presumed dead. ... In a
brief pre-game speech on the court, Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe
thanked the fans for coming and promised they would see a
hardworking team all season. ... It was Yao's fourth game in an NBA
uniform. His best game came Oct. 24 in the preseason against
Philadelphia, when he had 13 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
... The Nuggets will honor Doug Moe at halftime of a home game
against Detroit on Nov. 7. Moe, the winningest coach in Nuggets
history, led the team to nine straight playoff appearances,
including two Midwest Division titles, and was the NBA's Coach of
the Year in 1987-88. ... Center/forward Marcus Camby, on crutches,
joined the Nuggets on the bench for the home opener. Camby had hip
surgery Oct. 10 and has been rehabbing in New York. He won't be
able to play until at least January.