Houston, you have a problem

First quarter: cold shooting, hot tempers. Rockets point guard Rafer Alston and Hornets small forward Desmond Mason were sent home after some harsh words, eight minutes in. The score at the time was 9-8 Houston, and the quarter ended with the Bees up 17-15. Second quarter: cooler heads, still cold shooting. Score at the half: Hornets 33, Rockets 30. In the second half, things started to open up a bit, but they opened wider for the Hornets, who led by as many as nineteen points and won by thirteen, 87-74; it was only the seventh loss at home for the Rockets.

No, I wasn’t expecting this either. Yeah, Yao Ming was inactive, but Dikembe Mutombo has proven himself worthy at the post; yet Mutombo, while he got six rebounds, scored nothing. Tracy McGrady poured in a respectable 18 points, but nothing much else seemed to work for the Rockets.

With Mason gone, the Hornets’ bench had to work that much harder, and tonight they did, combining for 38 points: Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo scored 12 each. Chris Paul picked up 12 points and served up nine dimes; Devin Brown, in his second start as shooting guard, had 18 points, five assists and seven boards. Tyson Chandler? Yep, another double-double: 11 points, 12 rebounds.

No games tomorrow — supposedly there’s some big football game or something — and the road trip resumes in Sacramento Monday.

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