Atlanta (18-37) at Houston (31-23)

  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Sun Feb 22, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Houston forward Jim Jackson is frustrated with the way his team has blown leads this season. He hopes the Rockets can avoid that problem when they welcome the Atlanta Hawks to the Toyota Center.

Houston had won five of six before falling to Dallas 97-88 on Saturday. The Rockets are currently seventh in the Western Conference playoff race, but Jackson thinks they could be in a better position if they could just protect a lead.

“We’ve done this all year,” Jackson said Saturday. “We get leads and we can’t put a team away. We knew they’d make a run but we can’t fold and hand them the game.”

The Rockets converted eight of their first nine field goal attempts while the Mavericks were missing 12 of their first 13. Houston led 30-16 after one quarter.

“Our rate of success was high because we were able to get the ball inside and then go out,” said Rockets center Yao Ming, who had 14 points and five rebounds.

However, the Rockets failed to get much offensive production from their backcourt. All-Star guard Steve Francis scored just six points, more than 10 below his average, and Cuttino Mobley was 6-of-21 from the field.

Francis was hit in the face by a pass from Dallas’ Steve Nash midway through the third quarter and needed to be helped from the court. He returned several minutes later.

“I couldn’t see for about 2 minutes,” Francis said.

The Hawks have dropped three of their last four, including a 125-92 loss to Miami on Thursday in which they dressed just nine players.

Coach Terry Stotts had a limited roster due to injuries and uncompleted paperwork on a recently completed trade.

The Hawks acquired guard Bob Sura and center Zeljko Rebraca on Thursday in a three-team trade with Boston and Detroit, but the players were forced to watch the loss in the Atlanta locker room.

“I was told before the game that our guys couldn’t play,” Stotts said. “I don’t know, I don’t know … I was just trying to manage the game.”

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