Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/23

Game 1: Monday, December 23rd
Game 2: Tuesday, February 11th
Game 3: Wednesday, February 12th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 9th

Rockets 106


Jazz 76


    Coverage: FSRM

    7:00 PM ET, February 12, 2003

    EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 26 26 29 25106
    UTAH 18 22 19 1776

    Top Performers

    Hou: S. Francis 36 Pts, 3 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl

    UTAH: A. Kirilenko 15 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

    Guard denies Utah any chance of comeback

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Houston's Steve Francis made sure Utah had no chance at any last-second heroics this time.

    Yao Ming

    Yao Ming, right, scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half.

    Francis scored 36 points and Yao Ming had 11 of his 15 in the second half as the Rockets continued to pull ahead in a 106-76 win Wednesday night over the Jazz, who had won 24 hours before in Houston.

    "They're a veteran, savvy team. They win late in the game, especially at home, so we had to keep playing hard," said Francis, who scored 25 points in the first half. "Last night we kind of game the game away."

    James Posey and Maurice Taylor added 13 points each for the Rockets, who snapped a three-game losing streak, improved to 1-2 against Utah this season and won at Delta Center for the first time since 1996.

    The Rockets were 40-for-76 from the floor (52.6 percent) and forced 19 turnovers while handing the Jazz their worst loss since New Orleans beat Utah 100-75 in the season opener. It also was Houston's largest margin of victory of in the series, topping a 134-105 win in 1985.

    "I think the most important factor and difference today was our energy level," said Yao, who also had three blocked shots. "Tonight was probably our most complete game this year because of our energy level."

    While the Rockets were running up and down the court, the Jazz were listless.

    Utah's Karl Malone, who broke his nose late in Tuesday night's game, finished with 13 points -- seven below his average -- and sat out the fourth quarter. Andrei Kirilenko led Utah with 15 points, and John Stockton had 10 points but just one assist. Matt Harpring finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

    "I thought we'd come out and play aggressive right from the start. We didn't and we were digging uphill the rest of the night. And not very well," Stockton said.

    It was the Jazz's last game without coach Jerry Sloan, who will return from a seven-game suspension -- for pushing an official _ Friday night when Washington visits Utah. The Jazz went 4-3 under assistant Phil Johnson during Sloan's suspension.

    Eddie Griffin scored 10 points for the Rockets, who had lost 11 straight games at Delta Center. Houston had lost eight of its previous 11.

    "Whatever way they come, we need the wins. By 30, by 10, by two, we just really need to win games," said Francis, who was 11-for-19.

    Houston was still stinging from Tuesday night's 103-101 loss -- a game the Rockets were on the verge of winning until Harpring hit a last-second 3-pointer to force overtime.

    There was no danger of a last-minute collapse Wednesday as the Rockets extended a 12-point halftime lead to 24 in the third quarter by going 11-for-21 from the floor and holding the Jazz to 16-for-35 shooting.

    "You never want to count on comebacks. It's a hard way to win," Stockton said. "You want to come out and play well from the start and set the tone -- clearly what they did instead of us."

    After the Rockets scored the first five points of the third period, Utah made a short-lived run. Stockton's three-point play with 7:39 left in the quarter cut the lead to 59-46, then Posey started a 13-4 run with a 3-pointer, and the Rockets coasted the rest of the way.

    It was more of the same in the fourth quarter. With starters from both teams on the bench and the game well out of hand, Houston went up by as many as 33 points before it was over.

    "We've had some thrills this year," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "Young teams are emotional and sometimes the wrong way. Tonight we used it in the positive."

    Game notes
    Francis had 16 points in the first quarter and scored 21 of Houston's first 31 points. ... Utah's Greg Ostertag beat Yao on the opening tip and had three blocks in the first quarter. ... Malone left the game with 30.9 seconds left in the second quarter after taking an elbow to the face from teammate John Amaechi. The accidental hit got Malone's nose bleeding again. Malone returned, but had just five points in the second half.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 106 76
    FGM-FGA 40-76 (.526) 27-71 (.380)
    3PM-3PA 6-12 (.500) 1-4 (.250)
    FTM-FTA 20-25 (.800) 21-27 (.778)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-46 11-34
    Assists 17 15
    Turnovers 18 19
    Steals 10 14
    Blocks 6 7
    Fast Break Points 9 3
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 21 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Steve Francis Francis
    Points: 36
    Reb: 3
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0
    Andrei Kirilenko Kirilenko
    Points: 15
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 1