Rockets 117, Warriors 107

Saturday, March 22nd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Steve Francis had 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds and all five Houston starters scored in double figures as the Rockets defeated the Golden State Warriors 117-107 on Friday night in a key game for playoff positioning.

The Rockets stayed tied with Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, 31/2 games ahead of 10th-place Golden State. The Suns beat Washington 109-83 on Friday.

Yao Ming had 23 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and five turnovers for Houston, which has never lost in The Arena in Oakland. The Rockets are 12-0 in the building and swept the Warriors in three meetings this season.

Cuttino Mobley had 26 points and James Posey added 21 for Houston, which lost the first two games of its five-game Western road trip. Francis had his sixth career triple-double, and his 12 assists were two below his career high.

Gilbert Arenas had 25 points, six assists and five rebounds for Golden State, the league's turnaround team under first-year coach Eric Musselman. The Warriors had won three of their last five.

Antawn Jamison had 21 points and eight rebounds, but had only one point and one rebound in the second half.

After trailing big, Golden State came within five twice in the final 3:29, but couldn't get closer despite holding the Rockets to two field goals over the final 7:25.

The Rockets played their third game without coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who is in Houston recovering after tests that detected a cancerous tumor on his bladder lining. Assistant Larry Smith is filling in for Tomjanovich during the road trip.

The Warriors pulled within two, 57-55, on a basket by Erick Dampier with 9:14 remaining in the third period, but the Rockets answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Posey and Mobley. Those 3s started a 21-4 run over the next four minutes as Houston built a 78-59 lead.

The Warriors hurt themselves by being sloppy with the ball, committing seven of their 15 turnovers in the third.

Earl Boykins kept Golden State in the game with 14 straight points during one stretch, including his team's final 10 points in the third quarter and first two baskets in the fourth as the Warriors pulled within 90-78 with 10:24 left.

Boykins, referred to as "Sparkplug," finished with 22 points, and the Warriors got 47 points from their bench.

Troy Murphy returned to the Golden State starting lineup after missing two games with a bruised right knee, but was limited to one point and four rebounds in 14 minutes.

Houston shot 61.9 percent in the first quarter and led by as many as 10. The Warriors scored seven straight points in the final 1:17 of the first half, but Mobley made a 3 at the buzzer as the Rockets took a 53-48 lead into halftime. Notes: The crowd of 20,193 -- boosted by the attendance of several members of San Francisco's large Asian community -- was the largest at home in Warriors team history. The previous high had been 20,181 on March 6, 2001, against the L.A. Lakers.

Musselman had three friends fly in for Friday's game -- two from Florida and one from Hawaii. "It's interesting, you have a lot more friends when you win," Musselman said.

Some Asian fans got too close to the court before the game as they tried to take pictures of Yao and security stepped in.