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Tuesday January 10, 2012 11:13 PM

Rockets Declaw 'Cats

Strong efforts from Parsons, Hill help Houston hold on for 82-70 win over Charlotte

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - The Bobcats got Parsons’d.

Just one day after discussing his respect and admiration for fellow University of Florida product Tim Tebow, Rockets rookie Chandler Parsons put on a crunch-time clinic worthy of the Broncos’ QB, delivering several big late-game buckets to ensure Houston escaped Charlotte with its first road win of the season.

It was a coming out party of sorts for Parsons, who set a career-high in scoring during his second NBA start with 20 points – seven of which came during a 65-second fourth quarter flurry that effectively put the game out of reach.

And though the rookie’s performance is not likely to launch a mass media frenzy or a public outbreak of ‘Parsonsing’ anytime soon, it certainly came at a most opportune time as it helped Houston snap a 4-game losing streak overall and a 5-game stretch of futility on the road to start the 2011-12 season.

“It’s huge,” said Parsons, who tallied 7 rebounds to go with his game-high point total. “With the schedule this year, any win is a big win. From the beginning of the season we’ve been playing some really good teams, and to be able to come on the road like this before another big week coming up, it’s just big to walk out of here with a win.”

Indeed, Tuesday’s game was about as close to a must-win for Houston as any contest could be less than one month into the season. The Rockets came into Charlotte reasonably well rested and ready while the Bobcats had played in New York City the night before. And with Kyle Lowry back in the starting lineup after missing a pair of games with a bruised right foot, the Rockets knew escaping with a victory was of paramount importance; especially with a trip to San Antonio for a Wednesday night clash with the Spurs looming on the immediate horizon.

As these things tend to go for teams struggling to snap out of a slump, very little was handed to Houston in its quest to break through on the road. After a hot start shooting the ball, the Rockets went ice cold and never really did rediscover their shooting stroke, finishing an anemic 38.6 percent from the field. Houston then compounded the issue by becoming exceptionally turnover prone – coughing it up a season-high 22 times – in a rather uncharacteristic showing of sloppy play and poor decision making made all the more surprising given the Rockets’ status as one of the league’s top-5 teams in terms of turnover rate.

Appropriately enough then, the Rockets were forced to win the game on the strength of a defense that has faced its fair share of well-earned criticism so far this season. But there were no such sieve-like issues on display Tuesday night as Houston presented a much more united front, preventing penetration and forcing the Bobcats to survive on a seemingly endless diet of perimeter jumpers. The end result: Charlotte connected on just 34.1 percent of its shots, including a ghastly 1-of-13 mark from beyond the arc.

Credit deserves to be spread team-wide for those numbers – same goes for Houston’s 57-44 edge on the boards as well – but Samuel Dalembert and Jordan Hill were especially fearsome along the interior as they did a remarkable job setting the tone and owning the paint. Dalembert’s first half – 6 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block and a team-leading plus/minus of +18 – was quite likely the best he’d looked in a Rockets uniform since opening night in Orlando. Hill, meanwhile, did the vast majority of his damage in the second half providing the frenetic energy his team so sorely seeks from him as he was a one-man wreaking crew, posting an eye-popping final stat line that included 12 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high tying 5 blocks – accomplished in a mere 18 minutes of action.

All of which set the tone for Parsons’ final heroics that arrived just in time to rescue the Rockets from their most frigid offensive stretch during a game that seemed to be filled with sequences featuring icicles dangling from the fingers of shooters on both sides. This particular period, however, had been especially frosty as Houston’s fourth quarter lead – once 14 – had been trimmed to five while the Rockets managed to muster a mere four points during the opening nine-and-a-half minutes of the final frame.

But making big plays come crunch time to preserve the occasionally ugly win is a Tebow staple, no? Perhaps, then, it should be no surprise that a fellow Gator showed he could follow suit. That’s precisely what Parsons did while draining a triple, a corner jumper and a spinning layup – all in little more than a minute – to make sure the Rockets came out on top.

“It feels real good,” said Parsons. “Most importantly we came out here and competed on the defensive end – that’s what Coach has been emphasizing all year long. So if we come out here and give the kind of defensive effort that we did, good things are going to happen because we’ve got guys who can score.

“You just have to give credit to Kyle and Goran and Kevin for finding me and I’m just going to continue working hard and play with energy and bring this team defense and rebounding and all the things we need to do that aren’t really the highlights – that’s what adds up to winning so I’m just going to continue to do that and keep working hard to get better every day.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(On tonight’s game)
“The guys played hard and were active defensively. It was a good win for us. A couple of weeks ago when we had all the turnovers and missed shots, it hardened us. They kept battling. It was an ugly win, but I would rather take an ugly win over a pretty loss.”

(On the team’s play tonight)
“The guys just worked hard. They put their head down and went to work. Some nights on the road you have to win ugly and it was ugly out there for both teams. I was happy for our guys.”

(On the team’s rotation)
“We are still trying to find our rotation. We are still working out those things. We are still trying to find out who is going to play and who they are going to play with.”

(On Chandler Parsons)
“Chandler plays the same way in the fourth quarter as he does in the first. He plays the same way in practice the way he plays in games. He just comes out and plays really hard.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

It feels real good. Most importantly we came out here and competed on the defensive end – that’s what Coach has been emphasizing all year long. So if we come out here and give the kind of defensive effort that we did, good things are going to happen because we’ve got guys who can score.

It definitely feels good. You just have to give credit to Kyle and Goran and Kevin for finding me and I’m just going to continue working hard and play with energy and bring this team defense and rebounding and all the things we need to do that aren’t really the highlights – that’s what adds up to winning so I’m just going to continue to do that and keep working hard to get better every day.

(On getting the win tonight)
“It’s huge. With the schedule this year, any win is a big win. From the beginning of the season we’ve been playing some really good teams, and to be able to come on the road like this before another big week coming up, it’s just big to walk out of here with a win.”

(On whether it’s tougher to knock down shots at the end of the game)
“No, I don’t think so. At the end of the day you’re playing basketball, and during a game like that it’s exciting. For our team to be able to shoot that poorly from the field and be able to pull out a win on the road in the NBA, that’s the kind of effort we have to give on the defensive end every night to win games like this.”

JORDAN HILL

(On his ties to the Carolinas and playing well in Charlotte)
“I was basically raised in Atlanta, but most of my family is from South Carolina. There’s something about Atlanta and Charlotte, I’m just out here having fun. I have to do this every game and work hard at it, do what I have to do and be a beast at it.”

BOBCATS COACH PAUL SILAS

(On the team’s play tonight)
“We were tired and it was just one of those nights. Even layups, we had shots at the hoop and couldn’t convert, and I can’t fault them. They played as well as they could play. They just didn’t have it. They (the Rockets) were sitting here waiting for us to come in. It was a tough game last night and to come in tonight and have to play is rough.”

(On Byron Mullens)
“It’s encouraging because here’s a guy that wasn’t playing at all in the league and now he’s scoring and rebounding. He’s coming. Its taking some time but I think he’ll get there.”

(On the possibility of starting Mullens)
“I really haven’t thought about it. If we’re playing against a center that he can guard and take advantage of, then it’s a possibility.”

BYRON MULLENS

(On playing back-to-back-to-back games starting Thursday)
“It’s going to be tough, but that’s part of the game and that’s why we play it. We’re just going to have to come out with great energy and just want it more than the other team. We’re not the only ones that have got back-to-back-to-back. We’ve just got to come out with energy.”

(On his improved play this season)
“It’s definitely getting there. I’m getting the time that I need, and it’s going to come with time. Each game I’m getting better. I’m watching film after games, taking notes and getting better on the things that I see. When you watch film, you really see stuff that you didn’t think happened on the court. It’s just playing time and watching film. The sky’s the limit.”

(On his improved rebounding)
“That’s what we need. Coach (Paul) Silas, I talked to him about that, and he said it’s going to come with time. After the first game when I had five rebounds, he came up to me and said it’s going to come, don’t worry about it. Now they’re coming and I’m working hard at it.”

GERALD HENDERSON

(On the need to come out in the third quarter with more energy)
“It’s tough, especially with the kind of schedule we have, to find some energy at the end of the game. Having to come back down 10 or 12 points with seven minutes to go is a tough thing against a good team, so if we can somehow find some energy to start the third quarter, we’d put ourselves in better position at the end of the game.”

(On Byron Mullens)
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. He started out just hitting all of his jump shots, but he’s found a way to still hit his jumper, but get around the rim, shoot some shots, putbacks and stuff like that. He’s a good scorer, not just a shooter. He just has to keep it going, trying to improve all over the place, defensively. He can be a really good player.”

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