Rockets 83, Hornets 74

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NEW ORLEANS (AP)—The Houston Rockets made another good-shooting team look bad.

Already leading the league in forcing missed shots, Houston held New Orleans to a season-low 28 field goals Friday night and beat the Hornets 83-74.

Maurice Taylor scored 17 points in a reserve role and Cuttino Mobley added 16 with sharp 3-point shooting to give the Rockets the offense they needed in a victory that seemed inevitable from early in the fourth quarter.

With the towering Yao Ming and Kelvin Cato frustrating Hornets shooters near the basket, New Orleans needed its strong outside shooting. But Baron Davis shot 6-for-21 from the field, and David Wesley, who had scored in double figures in every game this season, missed his first five shots and didn’t score until 1:28 remained in the third quarter, finishing with nine points on three 3-pointers.

“Baron is going to get his points because he’s a great point guard. So we just did a good job contesting every shot he put up,” Mobley said.

The Rockets’ opponents were shooting just 39 percent, and the Hornets fared even worse—36 percent in tying their season low in scoring.

“We played good defense and they probably missed some shots they would normally make,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

Yao and Cato dominated the inside. Yao had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Cato added 10 rebounds, nine points and four blocked shots. Houston finished with a 43-34 rebounding edge.

Houston also held the Hornets normally explosive running game to two fast-break points.

“Houston has such an inside presence with Yao … you have to be more of a transition team, something we’ve done well the last couple games but didn’t do well tonight,” Hornets forward P.J. Brown said.

“They set the tempo. We tried to play half-court with them, but Yao just makes it very tough inside … you go to the rim and you see nothing but red.”

Darrell Armstrong led the Hornets with 17 points in a reserve role. Jamaal Magloire started strong against Yao, hitting mid-range jumpers and foul shots for 10 first-quarter points, but he scored only four points the rest of the way.

Davis finished with 16 points and 11 assists for New Orleans.

The Rockets led 65-55 after the third quarter, thanks to their rebounding and long-range shooting.

While the Hornets went 5-of-18 in the third, Houston started hitting 3s. Mobley made two and Francis one, and Cato got free inside for a pair of dunks— one on an alley-oop pass from Francis.

Armstrong’s 3-pointer cut the score to 65-60 early in the fourth quarter, but Moochie Norris hit a 3-pointer and New Orleans couldn’t get closer than six the rest of the way.

“They do a terrific job getting back defensively. They took away our transition game,” Hornets coach Tim Floyd said. “We relied on our perimeter game and didn’t get much out of it.”

Mobley finished 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

Taylor was 8-of-10 from the field, converting close and mid-range jumpers. He also helped on defense, double-teaming Davis.

“He was really good tonight at both ends of the floor,” Van Gundy said. “You don’t want to be known as an offensive player or a defensive player. You want to be known as a player. We’ve spoken about that.”

The Hornets’ best play occurred when Armstrong entered the game in the second quarter and immediately hit a 3. Soon after, the Hornets went on a 15-4 run to take a 38-32 lead.

Armstrong hit another 3 for eight points in the period, while Davis scored 10, including a 3 and three free throws after being fouled on a long jumper,and the Hornets led 43-39 at halftime.

Notes

The game marked the first time this season the Hornets blew a halftime lead. New Orleans had been 9-0 when leading or tied at the break. … The Hornets, who will be in Houston’s division after realignment next season, dropped to 3-2 against Western Conference teams. … Yao has scored in doublefigures in every game this season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Houston
Y. Ming Y. Ming
5-7,  15 Pts
10 Rebs, 2 Assists
 New Orleans
B. Davis B. Davis
6-21,  16 Pts
4 Rebs, 11 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists