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Chron - Winning streak stretches to five

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by RocketsPimp, Mar 14, 2004.

  1. RocketsPimp

    RocketsPimp Contributing Member

    Feb 15, 1999
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    March 14, 2004, 1:00AM

    Winning streak stretches to five

    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

    Maurice Taylor giggled until his ribs hurt about the sudden leaping ability of Jim Jackson. Cuttino Mobley sang stupid "I love the '80s" songs. (Apparently, Mobley really is a maniac.) Jeff Van Gundy was tempted to be pleased.
    But it's not the Rockets' record or place in the standings. It's not even the season-best, five-game winning streak, extended with a solid 88-80 win over the Grizzlies at Toyota Center, that had the Rockets fighting rampant exuberance as if it had become their greatest threat.

    It was something more than an amusing Saturday night or so-far-perfect homestand that made the Rockets seem a better team than they have been this season or in all those lottery-locked seasons.

    "We're playing well," Taylor said. "We got a big win against a good team. I'm happy. This is my first five-game winning steak since I've been here. It's the longest winning streak I've ever been on."

    Actually, though it is the longest active run in the Western Conference, it's not Taylor's longest winning streak with the Rockets. They had a five-game run last season, also.

    It just seems longer because they have beaten Minnesota, Dallas and Memphis to move a game-and-a-half behind the Grizzlies for sixth and two games behind the Mavericks for fifth in the West, and 3 1/2 games behind the Lakers for homecourt advantage in the playoffs' first round. And since they insist on assuming nothing about the postseason, they also moved 5 1/2 games from the lottery.

    "They deserve the credit," Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said. "Great defense. You can see why they've been able to beat all these good teams, why they beat Minnesota at Minnesota. They are feeling confident about their style."

    The Rockets snapped the Grizzlies' seven-game winning streak, leading by as much as 14. They then insisted that they would not allow themselves to be too giddy, as if they were playing so well that complacency had become a threat.

    "Once you give in to those emotions, then it's like you're making a statement that you've arrived, and that's not it at all," Van Gundy said when asked if he were pleased. "I'm happy with the win, but I also know how quickly it can change in this league and you have to have an edge, and you have to have an urgency, and our team in particular has to compete at a high level.

    "The hard part of being a coach is you're like in your forest, and it's hard to see what the reality is. I think certainly we have improved."

    But while Van Gundy said he must keep his team driving to be better the next day, they were start-to-finish solid on Saturday. Mobley and Steve Francis combined to made 14 of 29 shots for 29 points. Scott Padgett filled in well for Clarence Weatherspoon. Yao Ming had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots and helped seal the win in the final minute with a tough, scrambling offensive rebound and a stunning blocked shot.

    "Those are the plays that decide games," Van Gundy said. "The block on the out-of-bounds play, just generally making an impact even when you don't have the ball to shoot it. The great players play both ends. The great players play their best when their best is needed. That's what separates, along with consistency. And those two plays were great plays."

    Jackson led the Rockets with 20 points, finishing off the Grizzlies when he made a driving, sideways jumper with 49.5 seconds left.

    The Grizzlies had cut the Rockets' 14-point, fourth-quarter lead to six with 2:11 left. Francis missed a trey, but Yao grabbed the rebound and won a jump ball. Francis then passed to Jackson for his foul-line jumper, giving the Rockets an 84-76 lead and moving the game to a half-minute of free throws (he made all four).

    But the play that teammates preferred to speak of was a vicious, flying spike of a dunk that had given the Rockets an 11-point lead in the third quarter.

    "I didn't know he could dunk," Taylor said. "I have never seen him dunk, and I used to watch the Ohio State-Michigan games. I just thought he was vertically challenged. He represented for all the old heads. All the guys with 10 years or more (in the NBA) can look at Jim Jackson and see they can still do it. They can still play this game. Jim Jackson is out there to represent them."

    Said Mobley, "He wanted to show he could still dunk at 92-years-old."

    Jackson, at 33, smiled. A little. But he might have indicated more about how the Rockets played on Saturday and had accomplished in the winning streak, when he spoke about staying grounded not just to make the playoffs -- the company line from which he has never strayed -- but doing something when the Rockets get there.

    "I think we are so focused on trying to continue to get better, again, our focus is not just trying to make the playoffs, because if that's the case, then once we get there, that'll be it," Jackson said. "We'll feel we made it. And that's not where we want to be."

    If speaking of what happens when the Rockets get to the playoffs rather than merely getting there represented a breakthrough, so did Saturday's win. So Taylor laughed, and Mobley just kept singing.


    I love that quote. It sounds like he's trying to get them fired up heading towards the playoffs.

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