Bucks Ground Rockets

Sam Cassell had a happy homecoming.

Cassell lit up his former team with 35 points, one short of his career high, as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Houston Rockets 98-93 in a season opener Tuesday night.

"I've got a lot to prove and we've got a lot to prove as a team," Cassell said. "I love it. I've been waiting for this opportunity since all of last year. Right now I feel very good and I know this team is going to play well."

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Game Summary

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  • Cassell, the Rockets' first-round draft pick in 1993, scored the Bucks' first seven points and had 22 in the half. Guard Ray Allen picked up the scoring pace in the second half, finishing with 19 points.

    Cassell was 15-for-20 from the field and had 11 assists.

    "Thirty-five points and 11 assists. You can't complain, that's quality at both ends of the court," Bucks coach George Karl said. "We have some great offensive players. I don't think we've identified our big guys on offense yet but we will."

    All five Houston starters scored in double figures, led by rookie Steve Francis with 14. Charles Barkley, who has announced plans to retire after this season, had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Rockets. Hakeem Olajuwon added 12 points and 11 rebounds for Houston.

    The Rockets didn't get a lead until late in the first quarter, but went into the break with a 54-46 advantage.

    The Bucks took a 64-63 lead on a coast-to-coast slam by Cassell with 5:15 to go in the third quarter, but the Rockets responded with an 8-0 run.

    Milwaukee took the lead for good at 75-74 on a basket by Allen with 5 seconds left in the quarter. Houston closed to 95-93 with 1:50 left, but two free throws by Glenn Robinson and a free throw by Cassell with 28 seconds left ended the Rockets' hopes.

    "It wasn't real pretty but it's a `W,"' Karl said. "In the second half, our defense held up well. Our shooters made some shots. It's a `W' on the road."

    Robinson scored 13 points for the Bucks and Tim Thomas had 11 points off the bench.

    Trailing 19-14, the Rockets went on a 21-8 run and took a 35-27 lead early in the second quarter. Rockets reserves, led by Cuttino Mobley, had 14 points in the run. Francis hit two free throws with 35 seconds left in the first quarter for Houston's first lead, 26-25.

    "We did a lot of good things," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "This is early. We probably played good enough to win but they played better. They made some good shots and we just couldn't get them at the end of the game."


  • Francis led all rookies with a 19.6 scoring average in the preseason. He scored in double figures seven times and reached 20 points five times.
  • Francis and Cassell both started their college careers at San Jacinto Junior College in nearby Pasadena.
  • The Bucks finished with a 7-1 exhibition record.

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