With everything on the line, the Rockets (well, most of them) looked lackluster in a loss to the Clippers.
Lottery time? Probably considering the Suns beat Seattle tonight as well.
Not since the 1984-85 season have the Rockets dropped a season series. Bill Walton, the heavily taunted NBC and Clippers color man, was playing for the Clippers at the time. That's how long ago it was!
Steve Francis did his best to keep the Rockets in the game scoring 30 (11-24 shooting), grabbing 9 boards and dishing 5 assists but it wasn't enough as the Rockets couldn't hit shots down the stretch. From the Comeback Kids to the Flat-on-Their-Backs Kids.
Even more embarrasing was the fact that Jeff Mcinnis (23 points, 5 assists) and Michael Olowokandi (20 points, 8 rebounds) led the Clippers. This isn't exactly Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal we are talking about!
Lamar Odom had his fifth career triple double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and Eric Piatkowski (would someone please squash that guy!!!) added 16.
The Rockets were absolutely horrible from the field shooting only 39 percent for the game. Cuttino Mobley (21 points), Mo Taylor, Shandon Anderson and Matt Bullard were a combined 13 for 47 for an anemic 28 percent.
Kelvin Cato hit 5 of his 6 shots for 11 points and 7 boards but showed up too little too late with his defense to make a real impact.
With the Sonics fresh off a stinging defeat to the Suns to end their six-game winning streak waiting for Houston, this game could be the back-breaker in the playoff race.
This was the wrong time for the team to show up without fire and it showed on the floor. When they finally realized how desperate the situation was, they couldn't hit a shot and they blew an opportunity to stay in the hunt for a playoff berth.
The lottery seems more realistic than ever.
Rockets start off by missing their first 7 shots mostly on jump shots while the Clippers ran off the first 9 points of the game. Timeout.
The Rockets missed the first shot out of the timeout but Mo Taylor got the board and the put back.
The Rockets defense was not very good in the first giving up easy shots to Cherokee Parks and Michael Olowokandi with no challenge of the shots.
Taylor looked particularly agressive in the first even though the crowd booed him every time he touched the ball.
With 4 minutes left in the quarter, the Rockets were down 18 to 9 and shooting only 25% from the field.
Parks went 4 for 4 in the first quarter with 8 points and Olowokandi had 9. Cherokee Parks??? But the Rockets countered with scoring spread out among the starters.
Lamar Odom hit a 3 at the buzzer and, despite a really lack luster first quarter, the Rockets trailed ONLY 28 to 22.
The Clippers shot 63% in the first quarter.
Walt Williams entered the game early in the second for the first time in two games.
The Rockets came out sluggish in the second like they did in the first and managed only one field goal in the first three minutes, but the Clippers weren't any better managing only 3 points in the first 4 minutes.
Matt Bullard continued his ridiculous hot streak hitting two of his first three shots including a 3.
Corey Magette has jets in his feet and got a big slam over Matt Bullard on a missed crazy shot by Darius Miles, then Miles got a HUGE dunk of his own just seconds later on a broken offensive play.
The funniest thing in the second was watching Moochie try to guard Miles and vice versa.
Carlos Rogers continued to provide a spark by getting a couple of easy baskets and helped trim a nine-point defecit to 4 before a Clipper timeout.
One commercial that deserves mentioning was the ad for the last game of the year and the Hakeem Olajuwon bobble head dolls. Why was it important? Because many of us will be there. Bill Worrell suggested that there should be a Calvin Murphy bobble head doll made but isn't he already a bobble head doll?
Mobley hit his third three pointer with 2:45 left in the second to get the Rockets within 3.
After a Bullard miss, Keyon Dooling buried a three at the buzzer. The replay showed he released the ball with one tenth of a second on the clock - swish.
What should have been an up-tempo game between two young athletic teams was pretty boring and slow in the first half.
The Rockets and Clippers each scored 18 points in the second quarter and the Rockets trailed at the half by six. The Rockets shot 42 percent for the half while the Clippers connected on 50 percent.
Mobley and Taylor led the Rockets with 9 and 8 respectively but shot a combined 6 of 18. All of Mobley's field goals were three's.
The Clippers were led by Jeff Mcinnis and Olowokandi with 9 each and Parks had 8, The three shot a combined 12 for 19 from the floor.
The Rockets started the second half with 4 in a row including a monster jam by Taylor on a terrific over-the-shoulder pass from Francis on the break.
The Clippers couldn‚t hit anything to start the second half until Olowokandi his a left hand baby hook to break the dry spell but Mobley came back with his fourth three of the game.
Cato, besides his 6 points in the first quarter, was non-existant out there with only 1 rebound, no blocks and no real intimidations inside.
With 9:21 left in the third, Cato was fouled and Odom was T'd up. Mobley hit the technical and Cato got one out of two to tie the game at 49, the first time since 0-0, but Mcinnis came back with a three at the other end.
LA went on a 9 to 1 run to go back up by 8 with 7 minutes left in the quarter. The Rockets had 2 turnovers in during that run.
Unlike in Sacramento, the Clippers were whistled repeatedly for illegal defense racking up three before the third quarter was even halfway over.
Francis hit two three pointers in a row to get the Rockets back within 1.
Mcinnis continued to be a pain hitting a jumper to get him to 16 and the Clippers back up by 3.
Anderson contined his horrendous shooting going 0 for 6 missing several in the third while Piatkowski came back with a three to get it to 64 - 57.
Mobley and Cato broke the drought with a alley oop slam by Cato and Anderson got his first basket with 2 minutes left putting the Rockets within 3.
A 6-0 run by the Clippers left the Rockets trailing by 9 after three.
Mobley began the fourth with his fifth three pointer to get the Rockets within 6.
Neither team could manage to get anything going to start the fourth with turnovers and blocks including one by Miles on a Bullard 3.
After the block, the Clippers hit a technical foul shot on an illegal defense and Odom got a three to get the lead back to 9. A Piatkowski jumper got the Clippers there largest lead of the game at 11 with just over 7 minutes left in the game.
The Rockets couldn't hit the ocean from the beach missing a number of shots in a row before Kenny Thomas hit a three to make it 78-70.
Mcinnis killed the Rockets putting the Clippers up 12 with five and a half minutes left in the game.
Francis came back with his 17th point but Olowokandi followed a Piatkowski miss to get the lead right back to 12.
Francis was the Rockets only game hitting another three for 20 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Olowokandi missed two big free throws and the Rockets came back to the other end on a wild series missing 5 shots in a row but keeping the ball on three offensive rebounds, a foul and a Clipper miscue before Francis hit another 3 getting the Rockets within 6 points at 84-78.
Neither team could hit any shots as LA missed on one end and Houston blew another shot at the other end and Moochie Norris carred the ball out of bounds with 2:38 left in the game.
Rockets get a big defensive stop forcing an LA turnover and came down for a HUGE slam by Cato from Mobley with 2 minutes left. 84-80.
Odom was fouled and hit both freethrows to push it back to 86-80.
The Rockets missed two shots at the other end and Cato fouled Olowokandi with 1:33 left. Kandi man missed both. Timeout Rocks with 1:32 left.
In a wild series, Francis missed an 18 footer after a killer crossover, Taylor's put back was blocked, Mobley missed a jumper from the corner and Moochie threw the ball off of a Clipper to get the ball back. Francis was fouled and hit both free throws. 86-82.
Taylor fouled Miles (just barely a 50% shooter from the line) and he hit both. 88-82.
Mobley missed a bad jumper, stopped to argue with the referees and Miles fired a long pass to Piatkowski for a dunk - I didn't even know he could jump that high - 90-82 with 47 seconds left.
Francis was fouled and hit one of two and managed another layup but it wasn't enough as the Clippers hit their freethrows down the stretch.
Jeff Balke can be reached at email@example.com