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NBA  FINAL            1ST  2ND  3RD  4TH  TOTAL
                      ---  ---  ---  ---  -----
     HOUSTON          33   24   16   26    99   
     LA LAKERS        19   25   27   16    87      FINAL

HIGH SCORERS:   HOU - STEVE FRANCIS 22, JIMMY JACKSON 18, YAO 
                      MING 18
                LAL - KOBE BRYANT 23, SHAQUILLE O'NEAL 22, 
                      GARY PAYTON 13

HIGH REBOUND:   HOU - STEVE FRANCIS 9, THREE PLAYERS WITH 8
                LAL - HORACE GRANT 11, SHAQUILLE O'NEAL 10, 
                      KOBE BRYANT 8

HIGH ASSISTS:   HOU - STEVE FRANCIS 7, CUTTINO MOBLEY 4, TWO 
                      PLAYERS WITH 2
                LAL - GARY PAYTON 7, KOBE BRYANT 6, DEVEAN 
                      GEORGE 3

         ATT:   18,997

Box Score

HOUSTON (99) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp K Cato 34 2-4 1-2 1-8 1 4 5 J Jackson 36 6-12 4-4 0-6 1 3 18 Y Ming 30 8-14 2-2 5-8 2 5 18 C Mobley 39 5-13 3-4 0-3 4 3 15 S Francis 42 7-18 8-10 2-9 7 4 22 M Taylor 27 6-11 2-2 1-8 1 3 14 E Piatkowski 15 1-5 1-1 0-1 0 1 4 M Norris 12 1-3 0-0 0-1 2 0 3 A Ford 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 S Padgett 1 0-1 0-0 1-1 0 0 0 B Nachbar DNP - COACH'S DECISION M Wilks DNP - COACH'S DECISION _____________________________________________________ TOTALS 240 36-81 21-25 10-45 18 24 99 _____________________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.444, FT-.840. 3-Point Goals: 6-14, .429 (J Jackson 2-2, C Mobley 2-3, S Francis 0-4, E Piatkowski 1-4, M Norris 1-1). Team Rebounds: 11. Blocked Shots:8 (K Cato 3, Y Ming 2, J Jackson, E Piatkowski, M Taylor). Turnovers:12 (K Cato 3, Y Ming 3, C Mobley 2, S Francis 2, E Piatkowski, M Taylor). Steals: 6 (S Francis 2, J Jackson, E Piatkowski, M Taylor, K Cato). LA LAKERS (87) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp D George 30 5-13 0-0 0-1 3 4 11 S Medvedenko 23 5-11 0-0 2-7 0 1 10 S O'Neal 41 5-12 12-18 5-10 2 3 22 K Bryant 43 9-26 4-6 3-8 6 4 23 G Payton 41 5-11 3-4 2-4 7 4 13 H Grant 30 1-4 0-0 2-11 2 2 2 D Fisher 16 1-7 1-2 0-0 1 1 3 B Russell 12 1-1 0-0 2-3 2 3 3 K Rush 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 L Walton 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 K Malone DNP - SPRAINED KNEE LIGAMENT B Cook DNP - COACH'S DECISION _____________________________________________________ TOTALS 240 32-85 20-30 16-44 23 22 87 _____________________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.376, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals: 3-11, .273 (D George 1-4, K Bryant 1-2, G Payton 0-1, D Fisher 0-3, B Russell 1-1). Team Rebounds: 12. Blocked Shots:3 (S O'Neal 3). Turnovers:10 (K Bryant 3, S O'Neal 2, G Payton 2, B Russell 2, D Fisher). Steals: 7 (G Payton 4, K Bryant 2, H Grant). ------------------------------------------- HOUSTON 33 24 16 26 - 99 LA LAKERS 19 25 27 16 - 87 ------------------------------------------- Technical fouls: La Lakers - 2 (G Payton, 0:16 2nd; Defensive Three, 7:25 2nd). Flagrant fouls: None. A: 18,997. T: 2:37. Officials: Bennie Adams, Ron Garretson, Ron Olesiak.


Extended Box

HOUSTON (99) AT LA LAKERS (87) HOUSTON REBOUNDS PLAYER POS MIN FGM-FGA FTM-FTA OFF-DEF-TOT AST PF ST TO PTS ====== === === ======= ======= =========== === == == == === K CATO F 34 2-4 1-2 1 7 8 1 4 1 3 5 J JACKSON F 36 6-12 4-4 0 6 6 1 3 1 0 18 Y MING C 30 8-14 2-2 5 3 8 2 5 0 3 18 C MOBLEY G 39 5-13 3-4 0 3 3 4 3 0 2 15 S FRANCIS G 42 7-18 8-10 2 7 9 7 4 2 2 22 M TAYLOR 27 6-11 2-2 1 7 8 1 3 1 1 14 E PIATKOWSKI 15 1-5 1-1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 4 M NORRIS 12 1-3 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 3 A FORD 4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 S PADGETT 1 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 B NACHBAR DNP - COACH'S DECISION M WILKS DNP - COACH'S DECISION TOTALS 240 36-81 21-25 10 35 45 18 24 6 12 99 (.444) (.840) TEAM REBS: 11 TOTAL TO: 12 (15 PTS) LA LAKERS REBOUNDS PLAYER POS MIN FGM-FGA FTM-FTA OFF-DEF-TOT AST PF ST TO PTS ====== === === ======= ======= =========== === == == == === D GEORGE F 30 5-13 0-0 0 1 1 3 4 0 0 11 S MEDVEDENKO F 23 5-11 0-0 2 5 7 0 1 0 0 10 S O'NEAL C 41 5-12 12-18 5 5 10 2 3 0 2 22 K BRYANT G 43 9-26 4-6 3 5 8 6 4 2 3 23 G PAYTON G 41 5-11 3-4 2 2 4 7 4 4 2 13 H GRANT 30 1-4 0-0 2 9 11 2 2 1 0 2 D FISHER 16 1-7 1-2 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 3 B RUSSELL 12 1-1 0-0 2 1 3 2 3 0 2 3 K RUSH 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 L WALTON 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 K MALONE DNP - SPRAINED KNEE LIGAMENT B COOK DNP - COACH'S DECISION TOTALS 240 32-85 20-30 16 28 44 23 22 7 10 87 (.376) (.667) TEAM REBS: 12 TOTAL TO: 10 (10 PTS) HOUSTON 33 24 16 26 - 99 LA LAKERS 19 25 27 16 - 87 BLOCKED SHOTS: HOUSTON - K CATO 3, Y MING 2, J JACKSON, E PIATKOWSKI, M TAYLOR. LA LAKERS - S O'NEAL 3. 3-PT. FIELD GOALS: HOUSTON 6-14 (.429), J JACKSON 2-2, C MOBLEY 2- 3, S FRANCIS 0-4, E PIATKOWSKI 1-4, M NORRIS 1-1. LA LAKERS 3-11 (. 273), D GEORGE 1-4, K BRYANT 1-2, G PAYTON 0-1, D FISHER 0-3, B RUSSELL 1- 1. TECHNICAL FOULS: LA LAKERS - G PAYTON, DEFENSIVE THREE. FLAGRANT FOULS: NONE. OFFICIALS: BENNIE ADAMS, RON GARRETSON, RON OLESIAK. A - 18,997. T - 2:37.


Game Story

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The Houston Rockets are starting to believe in new coach Jeff Van Gundy's defensive philosophy. Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson is trying to get his team of superstars to wake up. In another strong defensive effort, Steve Francis scored 22 points as the Rockets held the Lakers to just six baskets in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 99-87 victory. The Rockets are the NBA's third-ranked scoring defense behind division leaders Indiana and San Antonio and ranked first in the league in field-goal percentage defense at 39.4 percent. In their first Christmas Day game since 1997, the Rockets became the second team to hold the Lakers under 90 points, limiting them to 38 percent (32-of-85) from the field. "For the first 27 games we lead the league in defensive field-goal percentage," Houston guard Jim Jackson said. "That says a lot about what we do. Tonight was another case of adjusting our game plan and not allowing Shaq to have freedom inside and not let their guards penetrate and break us down." "We're a pretty good defensive team," Van Gundy added. "We're locked in pretty well. We're going to be hard to beat when we don't let them get their first option on us." In a game that was billed as the third matchup between Los Angeles superstar center Shaquille O'Neal and Houston's Yao Ming, the Rockets rarely trailed. Neither player was much of a factor in the fourth quarter. O'Neal scored 22 points but had just four in the final 12 minutes. All of his points in the fourth came at the line as Van Gundy put Kelvin Cato on him most of the night. Yao spent most of the game defending someone other than O'Neal and scored 18 points before collecting his fifth foul with 9:26 to play and the contest tied at 77-77. With Yao sitting next to assistant coach Patrick Ewing, the Rockets outscored the Lakers, 22-10, the rest of the way. The awful fourth quarter sent Los Angeles to its second regular-season home loss in the last 10 months and fourth in six games. The Lakers had won 10 in a row before suffering a 17-point loss to Dallas 12 days ago, and Jackson is waiting for his team to stop playing tired. "I told them, 'You guys think you're tired, you guys act like you're tired, you're playing like you're tired, but you're not tired,'" Jackson said. "It's a mental condition that you have to break through at this particular time and we couldn't dig deep enough to find that." The Lakers didn't seem tired in the third quarter when Kobe Bryant scored 11 of his 23 points. They opened the second half on 10-0 run to overcome a 57-44 halftime deficit and took a 71-70 lead with 1:24 to play in the third but were done in by a pair of lengthy shooting droughts in the fourth. "I can't really put my finger on it yet," O'Neak said. "We have to go back to practice, suck it up and try to get back on track." The Lakers played their second straight game without forward Karl Malone, who is out with a sprained right knee. Without one of their four superstars, they lost conseuctive games for the third time this season. Francis struggled from the floor, making just 7-of-18 shots and misfiring on four 3-pointers. But he went 8-of-10 from the free-throw line, grabbed nine rebounds and made several hustle plays.


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