Vancouver fans tried to rattle Steve Francis. It didn't work.
Francis, playing for the first time in the city he snubbed, overcame a hostile crowd with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds Monday night to lead the Houston Rockets to a 118-110 overtime victory over the Grizzlies.
Francis, who refused to sign with the Grizzlies after they made him the No. 2 overall pick in the June draft, played a sensational game even though fans mocked, cursed and threw objects at him.
Francis, who fouled out with 2:45 left in the overtime, sent the game into OT by hitting a 20-foot jumper with 2.6 seconds remaining and put the Rockets ahead for good when he opened the extra period with a 3-pointer.
"He did a wonderful job of not really making it too big of a deal," said Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich. "But I know his emotions were high."
Charles Barkley added 22 points as the Rockets snapped a four-game road losing streak and handed the Grizzlies their eighth straight loss.
Mike Bibby led Vancouver with 25 points, but blew an opportunity to win the game in regulation when he missed two of four free throws in the final 19 seconds. Shareef Abdur-Rahim added 23 points for the Grizzlies.
"This is a very difficult loss for us to take tonight," said coach Brian Hill. "We had the opportunity to win the game."
Francis, who was traded to Houston last August in a three-way deal that also involved Orlando, kept his emotions in check after getting a technical for taunting in the first quarter.
"I coldn't sleep this afternoon because I normally get an afternoon nap," he said. "It felt like a college game to me today, just knowing that everyone was going to be pumped up."
The game was briefly delayed in the fourth quarter when fans began throwing objects on the floor, including a tomato that splattered on the court. Someone also threw a tennis ball on the floor when Francis was attempting a free throw with 20 seconds left. A lemon and a quarter were also thrown on the court.
After fouling out, Francis was escorted off the court to the dressing room by a member of the Rockets security staff.
It was an unusually hostile reception from the normally laid-back fans at GM Place. They chanted a vulgar phrase while Francis was stretching on the court prior to the game and held up derogatory signs, including one that said: "Hey, Steve ya big baby. Grandma left diapers for you at guest services."
On the center-court scoreboard, fans were shown a clip from the TV show "Francis the Talking Mule." They also watched a skit in which the Grizzlies mascot tested different brands of wine, including one with Francis' picture on the bottle, which the mascot labeled as "Sour and Bitter."
Francis said he heard all the taunts and chants. In fact, he repeated one under his breath along with the crowd.
"I was singing it myself. It was cute and I understand if that's what they wanted to do," Francis said. "But I'm not mad at them or anything."
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