There was little agreement on how much former Rocket franchise player Hakeem Olajuwon affected the start of Houston’s game with Toronto.
But there was no question how much current Rocket franchise player Steve Francis affected the outcome, scoring 17 of his 35 points in the third quarter Tuesday and leading Houston from 17 points down to a 112-109 victory.
The Raptors lost their 12th consecutive game.
It was the first game back in Houston for Olajuwon since being traded to Toronto last August after 16 seasons with the Rockets. Olajuwon, who played 1,177 games for Houston, was given his customary “Hak-e-e-em the Dre-e-e-a-m” introduction, and the crowd went wild during a one-minute, 15-second standing ovation before the game.
“It was very nice for the fans to do that and I’m very happy they did,” Olajuwon said. “It was what I expected, but I’m still very happy to get the warm welcome. Ever since I left Houston to go to Toronto I thought about what coming home would be like and this was very nice.”
But Olajuwon, 39, didn’t figure much in the outcome, scoring only seven points and getting seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
The Raptors were led, as usual, by Vince Carter. On his way to tying his season high with 43 points, Carter made his first five shots. Jerome Williams made seven of his first eight as the seemingly inspired Raptors led by as many as 16 in the first half. They stretched the lead to as many as 17 early in the second half.
Toronto’s losing streak ties Miami and Cleveland for the second-longest in the NBA this season. Houston has the worst, losing 15 in a row at one point.
Miami 93, Detroit 91--Eddie Jones’ baseline jumper as time expired won it for the Heat at Auburn Hills, Mich., after Rod Strickland tied the game by making a wide-open 17-footer with eight seconds left.
Detroit’s Jerry Stackhouse lost the ball out of bounds with 2.8 seconds to go. Then Jones took Strickland’s inbounds pass and scored at the buzzer.
Jones led the Heat with 24 points. Stackhouse had 22 points for the Pistons, who lost for the second time in 10 games.
New York 102, Milwaukee 89--Kurt Thomas had 29 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for the Knicks at New York.
New York won for only the second time in nine games. Sam Cassell had 18 for the Bucks, who had their three-game road winning streak snapped.
The Bucks’ frustration boiled over late with Cassell and Anthony Mason being ejected for arguing with officials.
Seattle 97, Minnesota 83--Vladimir Radmanovic scored a career-high 21 points and Rashard Lewis made a pair of key three-point baskets as the SuperSonics outscored the Timberwolves, 16-3, over the final 7:39 to pull away at Seattle.
Gary Payton had 18 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for the SuperSonics.
Payton and the SuperSonics got a reprieve when Payton was called for his second technical foul at the end of the first quarter. Official Michael Smith called a double technical foul on Payton and Anthony Peeler. Smith changed his call after conferring with fellow official Tom Washington, and a technical foul was only assessed to Peeler.
Peeler led Minnesota with 20 points.
Dallas 81, Phoenix 77--Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and 20 rebounds as the Mavericks used a 25-8 fourth-quarter run to win at Dallas.
Jake Tsakalidis led Phoenix with 15 points.
San Antonio 109, Golden State 88--David Robinson had 13 points, passing 20,000 career points, in the Spurs’ victory at San Antonio.
Robinson became the 27th NBA player to surpass that point total as the Spurs extended their win streak against the Warriors to 16 games.
Antawn Jamison led the Warriors with 24 points.
Indiana 111, Orlando 98--Jamaal Tinsley had a career-high 30 points and added 12 assists as the Pacers won at Indianapolis.
The rookie, whose previous high was 29 points, had 22 in the first half.
Orlando Coach Doc Rivers was ejected with his second technical foul late in the game. Guard Darrell Armstrong was also ejected.
Orlando’s Tracy McGrady was held to 13 points on five-of-21 shooting.
Washington 115, Chicago 90--Reserve Courtney Alexander scored 26 points as the Wizards won their second consecutive game without Michael Jordan, beating the Bulls at Washington.
Alexander was instant offense, making nine of 11 shots in 28 minutes.
Jalen Rose scored 31 to lead the Bulls.
Cleveland 103, Atlanta 96--Lamond Murray scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half at Cleveland to help the Cavaliers end a four-game losing streak against the Hawks.
Jason Terry had 29 points for Atlanta.