Kelvin Cato, where are you?
The Rockets, badly in need of a defensive presence inside, were torched Friday night by Chris Webber for 37 points and 18 boards as the Sacramento Kings hung on in the fourth quarter for the 111-98 win.
The loss drops the Rockets record to 10-9. They have not defeated the Kings since 1998-99.
Webber was just unreal, hitting 15-26 shots, but it was how effortless it seemed his big night was. Kenny Thomas (7 points, 5 boards) and Maurice Taylor (4 points, 3 boards) were so badly outmatched it wasn't even funny. Hakeem Olajuwon (10 points, 9 boards, 3 blocks) was a stellar defensive presence in the paint in the first quarter, but he was on the bench most of the second half.
Predrag Stojakovic, averaging 18.6 points per game this season, sat this game out, but his replacement, rookie Hidayet "Hedo" Turkoglu (another guy's name you can't pronounce), went off for 16 points for the Rockets.
Steve Francis did finish with 20 points, 10 assists (7 of which he had early in the second quarter) and 6 boards, but could connect on just 6-15 shots. Cuttino Mobley knocked down 19 and 6 boards, but took some wild (and selfish) isolation shots in the fourth.
Moochie Norris had a great game off the bench, knocking down 14 points in just 24 minutes of play. Though Walt Williams got burned by Turkish rookie, he did match his scoring output with 16 of his own.
One bright spot was the Rockets did have 9 blocked shots, 3 each by Olajuwon and Kenny Thomas. However they were beat on the boards (44-37) and outshot (47.6% to 44.7%)
deja vu all over again to start the game as the Kings ran off to an 8-0 start, capped by a Doug Christie three, and Rudy T was forced to call timeout.
However the Rockets didn't wilt in the first quarter. Inspired by great interior defense by Hakeem, the Rockets caught up quickly. After a three-point play by Dream, a fast break layup by Shandon and fast break dunk by Mo, the Rockets had run off 7 straight points and trailed 17-16.
The Rockets took their first lead of the season against the Kings with 1:32 left in the first when Francis nailed a 20-footer, putting Houston up 24-23. Shandon Anderson, who led the Rockets with 8 in the quarter, capped the first period scoring by hitting 2 free throws -- Houston 28, Sacramento 25.
Scott Pollard came in the second period and was destroying Matt Bullard -- Pollard had 10 points in no time. But the Rockets and Kings remained close throughought the quarter thanks to Cuttino Mobley scoring and scoring often. Steve Francis too was all over the place, and had 7 assists before the halfway point of the second quarter.
Though Francis was hit, he missed a fast break layup with about a minute to go which the Kings immediately turned around to score on. It cost the Rockets a halftime lead -- Kings 54, Rockets 51.
Cuttino had 12 points while Francis had 11 points and 7 assists at the break. Chris Webber led the Kings with 14 points and 7 boards.
The Rockets started taking poor shots to start the third and the Kings had turned up the defense. After a Christie fast break slam and a bucket by Webber, the Kings led by 7, 62-55.
The timeout didn't help the Rockets at all. Webber couldn't miss and, after a Jason Williams layup, the Kings started to bust it open at 72-59.
Another timeout didn't help.
Christie picked Kenny Thomas' pocket and went the other way for a breakaway slam, putting the Kings up by 15. A Jason Williams three put the Kings up 17.
A left-handed fast break slam in Turkoglu's mug by Walt cut the lead to 13, but the Rockets couldn't take advantage (three missed free throws) and after a Turkoglu three-pointer the Kings led by 17 again. Webber alone had 13 points and 8 boards (giving him 27 and 15 total) in the quarter -- through three it was Kings 87, Rockets 72.
Webber scored 2 more buckets and it looked like the Kings would roll. But the Rockets scored 8 straight points, aided by a breakaway foul by Jon Barry, to cut the Kings lead to 91-82.
When Doug Christie scored a deuce to make it 97-87 Kings, Moochie responded by hitting two free throws then a jumper on the wing off a Francis feed and the Kings lead was down to 6, 97-91.
Timeout Kings. End of Rocket rally.
As has become the norm this season, an opponent timeout completely shifted the momentum and disrupted the Rockets entirely. Webber came out and hit a turnaround and Jason Williams hit back-to-back threes and the Kings were back up 11 in no time.
The Rockets never got any closer than 8 from there.