Rockets 97, Hornets 86

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HOUSTON (AP)—Cuttino Mobley didn’t wait very long to take matters into his own hands.

Mobley scored 31 points and equaled a season high with six 3-pointers as the Houston Rockets beat the New Orleans Hornets 97-86 Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

With the Rockets leading 23-21 early in the second quarter, Mobley scored 13 straight points as part of a 17-4 surge that put Houston in control.

“For a minute, everything felt good,” Mobley said. “I don’t pay attention to that (13 in a row). When you’re in a groove, you’re in a groove.”

Mobley’s run included three straight 3-point baskets, a layup following a steal by Mark Jackson and a 12-foot jumper. Houston outscored the Hornets 28-13 in the second-quarter breakaway. Mobley was 6-of-9 from 3-point range.

“It was nice to get Cuttino back playing effectively, he’s been struggling for a few games,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “We need our best, most efficient scorers to play efficiently together.

“Over the last five or six games, he’s really struggled shooting. We need his shooting. He did a good job of shooting tonight.”

Mobley has been bothered by a sore lower back sustained against the Lakers on March 3.

Mobley hit a 3-pointer and a basket to start the fourth quarter, when the Rockets took a 20-point lead. But they had to hold off a mild charge led by Baron Davis, who scored 16 of his 30 points over the final 6:38. New Orleans got the deficit down to seven with 51 seconds to play.

“We had a 13-point (second) quarter and on the other end we never found an answer for Mobley and Steve Francis,” New Orleans coach Tim Floyd said. “The first half we weren’t able to penetrate on offense and in the second half they made us guard Yao (Ming) down low and we never got their guards under control.”

The Rockets rode Mobley’s big second quarter to a 49-34 halftime lead and, despite eight third-quarter points by P.J. Brown, Houston kept the big lead, 73-56 going into the fourth quarter.

Darrell Armstrong had 11 points and Brown and Jamaal Magloire each had 10 for the Hornets.

Steve Francis and Jim Jackson each had 19 points for the Rockets.

“He (Mobley) was really good, not only him but everybody who got the ball, but he was great,” Francis said.

Yao Ming had four points, a blocked shot and two fouls in the first five minutes of the game. He sat out the rest of the opening period, and New Orleans outscored Houston 8-4 over the closing minutes for a 21-21 tie. Yao finished with 17 points and five fouls.

“We moved the ball and played the game the way we’re supposed to play,” Yao said. “Our spacing was good and Cuttino was playing very well.”

Yao presented problems for New Orleans’ defense.

“His ability to change shots can have a big impact on the game,” Floyd said. “Yao is a young guy who’s getting better and better and their guardsrecognize his importance. They know they have to play through him.”

Notes

The Rockets have a winning record each month this season for the first time since 1993-94, when they won the first of back-to-back NBA championships. … The Hornets have a 3-12 record in Houston. … The Rockets have a 28-6 record this season when leading after the first quarter. … Injuries have forced the Hornets to use 10 different starting lineups this season. … Maurice Taylor left in the third quarter with a sore left knee. Taylor said heexpects to play on Saturday.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New Orleans
B. Davis B. Davis
12-28,  30 Pts
5 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Houston
S. Francis S. Francis
6-14,  19 Pts
6 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists