Final / OT

Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 1/13

Game 1: Monday, January 13th
Game 2: Monday, February 24th

Rockets 101

(30-26, 10-16 away)

Celtics 95

(31-25, 17-10 home)

    7:00 PM ET, February 24, 2003

    TD Garden, Boston, MA

    1 2 3 4 OT T
    HOU 22 28 16 22 13101
    BOS 27 27 19 15 795

    Top Performers

    Hou: S. Francis 33 Pts, 9 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

    Bos: A. Walker 22 Pts, 11 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Francis and Mobley combine for 64 for Houston

    BOSTON (AP) -- The fans came to see Yao Ming, and for most of the game they saw a 7-foot-6 decoy.

    Yao Ming

    Yao Ming was covered tightly all night, even in celebration with his teammates.

    Cuttino Mobley scored 31 points, hitting a 3-pointer to force overtime and another for the game-winner to lead Houston to a 101-95 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday as Yao made his Boston debut before a sellout crowd on Asian-American Night.

    ''They were all over Yao and this was a great learning experience for him,'' Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. ''This was the most concentrated defense I have seen on one guy this season defending Yao.''

    Steve Francis returned after missing a game with a sore back and scored 33 with nine rebounds and nine assists, hitting two free throws with 20 seconds left in overtime. He added a breakaway dunk for insurance with 8.6 seconds left.

    ''They were double- and triple-teaming the big fella,'' Francis said. ''As much as we wanted to get him the ball, I think he understood because they had so many arms and legs on him that we didn't really want to force it.''

    Yao had just nine points on two shots as the Celtics banged him around and denied him the ball at the low post. But he hit a nice skyhook in the lane with 3:59 left in the fourth to cap an 11-0 run that cut the Celtics' lead to four points as the Rockets scored 20 of the last 25 points in regulation.

    ''They guarded me very tight, but we won,'' Yao said through an interpreter.

    Antoine Walker had 22 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and Eric Williams had 11 points and 11 boards as the Celtics lost to the Rockets for the fifth consecutive time.

    Boston led 83-68 with 7:13 left in the fourth, but the Celtics made just two baskets the rest of regulation -- both by Pierce. He made it 88-85 with a fadeaway jumper with 2:29 left, but a minute later Francis stole the ball away and fed Mobley for the tying 3.

    ''No way, being at home, we should blow that type of lead,'' said Paul Pierce, who scored 22. ''We had the lead in the fourth quarter and let it get away.''

    Both teams missed two chances to win it in regulation.

    Houston led 92-91 in overtime when Walker hit a runner over Yao. But Mobley answered with a 3-pointer to give the Rockets the lead for good.

    Yao then got the ball in the low post and was immediately fouled by Battie. He sank both free throws. Battie made a layup to cut the deficit to two points, but Francis made two free throws and then broke free for the dunk that clinched it.

    Hundreds of Asian-Americans waved Chinese flags and held up signs in Chinese while cheering Yao's every move. That he was held without a shot or a rebound for the first quarter did little to damper their enthusiasm.

    He finally grabbed a rebound with 4:37 left in the half. A minute later, he was fouled going to the basket, and the crowd cheered loudly even when he missed his second free throw.

    The Celtics returned from a 4-2 road trip, during which they traded Shammond Williams for Mark Blount and Mark Bryant. Blount, who played for Boston the last two years, backed up Battie instead of Vin Baker, who did not play.

    The Celtics scored the game's first nine points and led by as many as 12 in the first quarter, 26-14, before the Rockets made it 27-22 after one.

    Game notes

    Francis started after missing the previous game Saturday with a sore lower back. ... Ming Tsai, the host of the cooking show ''East meets West,'' met Yao before the game and gave him a bagful of cooking supplies. A representative of the Chinese embassy also met Yao before the game. ... Baker did not play for the second consecutive game since Boston traded for Blount. ... Pierce injured his back when he slipped on the ice over the weekend.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 101 95
    FGM-FGA 32-72 (.444) 34-91 (.374)
    3PM-3PA 13-28 (.464) 10-35 (.286)
    FTM-FTA 24-28 (.857) 17-23 (.739)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 6-44 15-48
    Assists 23 26
    Turnovers 19 11
    Steals 6 12
    Blocks 6 2
    Fast Break Points 6 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 23 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Steve Francis Francis
    Points: 33
    Reb: 9
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 2
    Antoine Walker Walker
    Points: 22
    Reb: 11
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1