Monday , Feb , 23 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Triple the fun: Rockets outlast Hawks

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Yao Ming hit a tough turnaround jumper with
23.4 seconds left in the third overtime and finished with a career-high 41
points, leading the Houston Rockets to a thrilling 123-121 victory over the
Atlanta Hawks at the Toyota Center.

Yao also added 16 rebounds and seven assists for the Rockets, who rebounded
from a 97-88 loss at Dallas on Saturday. Cuttino Mobley contributed 28 points
in a staggering 59 minutes of action in this contest. Mobley played 45 minutes
against Dallas and was on the court for a remarkable 104 minutes in the last
two days.

Jason Terry recovered form a sub-par first three quarters and finished with 27
points in the losing effort, Atlanta’s third straight. Terry was just 2-of-13
shooting before hitting nine of his last 10 shots down the stretch.

“I didn’t realize how many overtimes it was,” Terry said of the classic
contest.

The revamped Hawks had three new players in uniform for this contest —
forward Chris Mills, center Zeljko Rebraca and guard Bob Sura. All three
players were acquired prior to the trade deadline on Thursday in a three-team
deal that made Rasheed Wallace’s stay in Atlanta short-lived.

Playing for the first time in weeks, Rebraca finished with a season-high 18
points on 9-of-13 shooting. Sura posted season highs with 14 points and seven
assists in his debut with Atlanta.

The Rockets trailed by one after a free throw by Sura with 37.9 seconds left
in the third overtime, but Yao was able to hit the difficult turnaround jumper
through a double team to put the Rockets ahead for good.

“I thought we needed every play we could get down the stretch from a lot of
different guys. Yao obviously came through with a lot of big baskets,” Rockets
coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

Atlanta then missed a contested shot down low and Mobley was eventually fouled
to earn two shots from the line. He hit just 1-of-2 to extend the Rockets’
lead to two. Sura was then unable to convert despite some contact on a driving
layup in the waning seconds, allowing Houston to emerge victorious.

“I definitely got fouled but they didn’t call it,” Sura said of his last-
second attempt.

Sura came up big for his new team with a clutch basket that drew the Hawks
within 92-91 with 32.5 seconds to play in regulation. After Yao produced the
game’s next basket, a layup after a scramble down low with 25.3 seconds
remaining, Atlanta responded again when Chris Crawford hit a big three-pointer
from the left wing to tie the score at 94-94 with 25 seconds remaining.

Jim Jackson then came up short on an 18-foot jumper that would have given the
Rockets the victory, allowing the game to head into overtime.

Atlanta built a three-point lead in the first overtime period after Terry
converted on a foul-line jumper with the shot-clock running out, giving
Atlanta a 107-104 advantage with 14.2 seconds left. Steve Francis, though, hit
a three-pointer from the corner moments later to even the score with 2.9
seconds remaining.

Terry had a chance to end the game as the buzzer sounded but his layup attempt
rimmed out, sending the contest into a second overtime.

The run of magical three-pointers continued in the second overtime. First it
was Terry who hit a 30-foot heave to break a tie with 54.3 seconds left,
giving Atlanta a 114-111 lead. After an unsuccessful offensive possession by
each team, Jackson drained a three-pointer from the right corner with seconds
remaining. Atlanta then failed to convert at the buzzer, sending the game into
yet another extra session.

Jackson finished with 17 points and Francis chipped in 16 points, nine assists
and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who improved to 19-8 at home this season.

“It was crucial. We got the win at home against an East team,” Francis said.
“We were definitely in need of a win after losing our last game.”

The first quarter was an offensive exhibition and ended with Atlanta holding a
slim 31-30 advantage after 12 minutes. Both teams shot the ball especially
well in the first quarter, with Atlanta hitting 14-of-21 shots and Houston 10-
of-17. Yao led all scorers with 10 points in the period, connecting on four of
his five attempts from the field.

Atlanta opened with a 12-3 run to start the second quarter, ignited by a pair
of baskets by Rebraca, to claim a 43-33 lead with 7:54 to play in the half.

The Rockets, though, got hot late in the period and closed the quarter with a
7-2 run in the final two minutes of the half. Two free throws by Clarence
Weatherspoon in the waning seconds brought Houston within 51-49 at the break.

The game see-sawed back and forth, and after four lead changes, the Hawks
eventually went into the fourth quarter with a slim 71-69 advantage.

The Rockets allowed 100 or more points for the first time in 29 games. Yao’s
previous career high was 37 points on January 25 against Orlando.

Stephen Jackson had 24 points in the losing effort for the Hawks. Atlanta fell
to 0-4 in overtime this season. The Hawks’ last triple-overtime affair was
back on March 20, 1984 against San Antonio. Crawford finished with 19 points.

There were 20 lead changes and 18 ties in the contest.

Atlanta fell to 0-18 when it allows 100 points this season.

ATL HOU