Rockets 96, Magic 86

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HOUSTON (AP)—Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley gave the depleted Houston Rockets a huge lift.

Francis scored 31 points, Mobley added 21 and Houston sent the Orlando Magic to their sixth straight loss with a 96-86 victory Saturday night.

The Rockets were without forward Maurice Taylor, who sat out the first game of his 10-game suspension for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy. Also, Houston forward Eddie Griffin is suspended indefinitely for missing practices and a team flight.

“We were getting the ball in the open,” Francis said. “Coach was calling our number a lot. We were able to get good looks and knock them down.”

Mobley also helped extend Tracy McGrady’s offensive slump. The defending scoring champion had 14 points on 5-for-21 shooting for the Magic.

“I had a lot of help from the team,” Mobley said. “I definitely enjoy it. I want to show people I can play.”

McGrady managed only four points on 2-for-10 shooting in Friday night’s 100-71 loss to Minnesota, his lowest total in a Magic uniform and the first time in 116 games he didn’t reach double figures.

“It started with our defense on McGrady,” Francis said. “They scored 51 points in the first half. That was one of the big issues (at halftime). We did a good job shutting them down the second half.

“Cuttino did a good job having a hand in his face every single time.”

Yao Ming had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who never trailed after the opening minutes and won their third straight game.

Orlando coach Doc Rivers credited the Rockets guards.

“I feel between the two of them, they really hurt us, with their penetration and shooting,” Rivers said. “A lot of that came from Yao with his passing.”

Juwan Howard led the Magic with 22 points, and Tyronn Lue added 18.

Leading 57-51 at halftime, the Rockets couldn’t pull away in the third period, and Orlando pulled to 81-78 early in the fourth on a 3-pointer by Keith Bogans.

Kelvin Cato scored four points in a 6-0 spurt that kept the Rockets in charge. He finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Houston edged ahead 29-26 after the first quarter, then made the first run of the game with a 12-1 spurt for a 41-27 lead as the Magic went scoreless for the first 3:16 of the second quarter.

Orlando responded with a 13-1 run, cutting Houston’s lead to 42-40 with 4:58 left in the period before three consecutive 3-pointers, two by Mobley and one by Francis, helped the Rockets hold on for their six-point halftime lead.

Recently signed Scott Padgett played 15 solid minutes as a replacement for Taylor.

“I thought Padgett did a tremendous job,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “What we’re trying to get on our team the more we move along is the hardest-playing, toughest, best-shooting players we can. And Scott fills thebill.”

Notes

The Magic are 19-12 in the regular season against the Rockets. … Rivers (171-163) needs 21 wins to pass Brian Hill and become the winningest coach in Magic history. … Houston’s Moochie Norris played in his 280thconsecutive game, the second-longest active streak in the NBA.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Orlando
T. Lue T. Lue
5-12,  18 Pts
5 Rebs, 7 Assists
 Houston
S. Francis S. Francis
11-18,  31 Pts
7 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists