The Rockets, boasting the league’s top defense, hope Steve Francis can bounce back from his worst offensive game of the season as they take on the struggling Los Angeles Clippers.
Francis had a season-low four points, shooting just 2-for-9 from the field, as the Rockets lost 85-78 to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
It was third-worst scoring performance of Francis’ career. In his rookie season, Francis was held scoreless by the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 24, 2000 and had three points on Nov. 16, 1999 against the Dallas Mavericks.
“I only took nine shots,” said Francis, who did have seven rebounds and seven assists. “I’m not really worried. I did everything else, got everybody the ball in excellent shooting position. I’m not worried about only taking nine shots.”
Friday’s loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Rockets, who were led by Yao Ming’s 21 points and nine rebounds. Yao, who has seven double-doubles this season, is averaging 19.4 points and 12 rebounds in his last five games.
Houston, which held Portland to 34 percent shooting, ranks first in the league in defense, allowing 81.5 points per game and 37 percent shooting. The opposition has failed to reach 80 points in five of 12 games.
Los Angeles concluded an 0-3 road trip with a 103-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.
A bright spot for the Clippers was the play of Quentin Richardson, who led the Clippers with a career-high 36 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Richardson’s previous career high was 32 points on Nov. 11 against Atlanta. However, he said the new mark doesn’t mean much.
“I would rather take two points, zero points or whatever if we get a win,” Richardson said. “I would sacrifice everything for a win.”
“The guys have played hard on this trip,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “We’re just learning how to win. What we need to understand is, some possessions in a game mean more than others. We need to become smarter, better players.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 22): Rockets - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Clippers - 6th place, 4 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - Francis, 18.4 ppg and 4.9 apg; Yao, 9.8 rpg. Clippers - Richardson, 22.0 ppg; Elton Brand, 15.0 rpg and 5.0 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 2-2.
LAST MEETING: March 24; Rockets, 108-90. At Los Angeles, James Posey scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half to lead the Rockets.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 3-3 on the road; Clippers - 2-1 at home.