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Wednesday February 23, 2011 10:52 PM

Rockets Clip Cavs 124-119

Chase Budinger comes through with career-high 30 points to help lift Houston to win

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - The Rockets’ bench brigade is showing signs of life. And Houston’s playoff pulse is beginning to quicken once again.

Just one night after rookie Patrick Patterson spearheaded a Rockets win over Detroit, Chase Budinger took over down the stretch against Cleveland to propel Houston to a 124-119 victory over the Cavaliers.

The win was the Rockets' second straight following the All-Star break, bringing the team within four games of the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed. It also allowed Houston to sweep its way past a mini two-game road swing, a stretch which included match-ups against a pair of struggling franchises. In other words, these were must-win games for a Rockets team eager to reinsert itself into the postseason picture, and the fact Houston’s bench came up big once again provides hope that maybe, just maybe, this positive momentum can carry the club toward the sort of prolonged period of success it will require in order to reach its goal.

“We can’t (afford to slip),” admitted Budinger after a game which saw him smash his previous career-high for scoring as he poured in 30 points to go along with 8 rebounds. “Every game is very important for us. For us to try to get back in the playoff race, we need every one, especially these ones on the road against a team we can definitely beat. Tonight in the second half, we showed the kind of urgency that we needed.”

Indeed, it took the Rockets awhile to get revved up Wednesday night, especially on the defensive end. During the first half Cleveland scored at will, shooting better than 57 percent from the field on its way to racking up a whopping 65 points through the first two quarters of play.

In fact, the only thing preventing Houston from getting run out of the gym was the Rockets’ uncanny ability to utterly dominate the offensive glass. Houston outrebounded the Cavs 16-3 on the offensive boards in the first half, with much of the dirty work being done by the indomitable Chuck Hayes. Hayes summoned the spirit of Moses Malone throughout the night, though never more so than in the first quarter, when he pulled down 12 rebounds in all, an astounding 9 of which came on the offensive end. His total number tied Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon for the second-most rebounds in a quarter in Rockets history, trailing only the legendary Malone, who once corralled 14 caroms in a quarter. Hayes went on to finish with 12 points and 17 rebounds on the night.

The start of the second half saw the Rockets begin to buckle down on the defensive end and they were instantly rewarded for their efforts. Houston ripped off a 19-2 run near the start of the third quarter to transform a halftime deficit into a double-digit advantage. Cleveland refused to roll over, however, as the Cavs responded with an 11-0 run of their own prior to the end of the quarter to retake the lead.

But just as it seemed as if Cleveland had seized the momentum once more, Budinger came through with a play that not only sparked his club, but provided a bit of foreshadowing for what was to come in the fourth quarter as well. With a mere five seconds left in the third quarter, Aaron Brooks grabbed a rebound on the defensive end and immediately took off down the court in an effort to get his team one more shot before the buzzer. Brooks dribbled into the lane where he was met by a horde of Cavaliers defenders, so he lofted a pass toward the near corner, where Budinger stood ready to corral the ball and fire it toward the rim all in one motion. A fraction of a second prior to the horn sounding, the ball left Budinger’s fingertips and fluttered softly into the bottom of the net, giving Houston a 91-88 lead heading to the fourth and a healthy confidence boost to the Rockets’ second-year swingman.

And in the final frame, Budinger’s mojo was on full display as he relentlessly attacked the Cavs’ helpless defense at every opportunity. Jumpers, drives, transition buckets... Budinger did it all in the fourth, scoring 14 points in the period on his way to finishing with an even 30 for the game. In fact, he and Kevin Martin, who also scored 30 points Wednesday, teamed up to score Houston’s final 24 points of the contest.

“Our bench played huge,” said Hayes. Chase came off of the bench and practically saved us and Courtney [Lee], just his activity and his ability to get to the basket, was huge for us. They did their job and they gave us a spark and we got the win.”

Added Budinger: “The whole game I was just trying to be aggressive, getting to the basket and shooting open shots. It was just a good game for me.

“I’ve been making it more of a goal to attack the basket, instead of just settling for jumpers… I knew that this team wasn’t a shot-blocking team, so you can really drive on them and get to the basket and that’s what I did.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

(Opening Statement): “In the second half, we finally started playing harder. We just did not defend in the first half at all. We talked about how they were playing and pushing the ball and fortunately we scored a lot ourselves. In the second half, we did a much better job of contesting them until the last 30 second when they got those eight points, but in the second half we defended them a lot better.”

(On Budinger attacking the rim being a point of emphasis): “We have always talked about that. I think this is more of a wide-open game and he had a lot of opportunities to put in on the floor. What I really liked about him was that he was really aggressive and he did it at key times in the game. When they cut it to two points or to four points, he attacked the basket a couple of times and got layups. We have gotten a lot of contributions from him and Courtney (Lee) and obviously Chuck (Hayes) was huge on the boards which got us second chances all night long.”

CHUCK HAYES

(On the play of the bench tonight): “Our bench played huge. Chase (Budinger) came off of the bench and practically saved us and Courtney (Lee), just his activity and his ability to get to the basket, was huge for us. They did their job and they gave us a spark and we got the win.”

CHASE BUDINGER

The whole game I was just trying to be aggressive, getting to the basket and shooting open shots. It was just a good game for me.

I’ve been making it more of a goal to attack the basket, instead of just settling for jumpers… I knew that this team wasn’t a shot-blocking team, so you can really drive on them and get to the basket and that’s what I did.

We can’t (afford to slip). Every game is very important for us. For us to try to get back in the playoff race, we need every one, especially these ones on the road against a team we can definitely beat, we’ve got to get ‘em. Tonight in the second half, we showed the kind of urgency that we needed.

CAVALIERS HEAD COACH BYRON SCOTT
 
(On the game tonight): “I shouldn’t have to say much, probably only two words-offensive rebounding. I’m not talking about our offensive rebounding. I’m talking about giving up 22 offensive rebounds. If you look at the stat sheet, offensively, we probably should have won the game. If you give a team like that 22 offensive rebounds, you make it very tough on yourselves. That was our message to the guys.”
 
(On what caused them to give 22 offensive rebounds): “Effort, physicality of the game, and not boxing out. They were more physical and more aggressive. Rebounding has nothing to do with skill or talent; it just has to do with a mindset. Like I said to our guys, we did a lot of good things tonight on both ends of the floor, but when you give up 22 offensive rebounds that means they get 22 chances to score and it makes it that much harder on you to defend it. Again, it’s a mindset. That team was aggressive and physical and every time the shot went up they went after it. We did a terrible job of boxing out and a terrible job of pursuing the ball.”
 
(On coming out flat after two good practices): “I didn’t think we came out flat. I thought the effort was pretty good. We have got a saying, and one of our defensive philosophies is ‘complete the play’. We didn’t complete the defensive play. When the shot went up, we did a pretty good job initially on defense and then everybody just relaxed. They pursued the ball and were much more physical and aggressive as far as attacking the ball. We didn’t do a good job of completing the defense and that is something that we talk about all the time.”
 
(On the play of J.J. Hickson): “I thought, in the second half, I wasn’t getting what I needed from him, so I went with the other guys.”
 
SAMARDO SAMUELS
 
(On being inserted into the game to give the team a change of pace): “Coach always tells me that when he puts me in the game, he puts me in the game for energy.  He only had to tell me once and that stuck with me.  Every time I go in there, I always try my best to keep my man off the glass and try to help in that department.  When they throw it down low to me, I feel like I have an advantage and I’m going to try and score.  That’s what I like to do.”
 
(On to Rockets’ second chance opportunities tonight): “That’s what coach talked about when we got into the locker room, the second chance opportunities that they had.  Me and the other bigs kind of took it upon ourselves that we did a poor job tonight of keeping them off the glass.”
 
RYAN HOLLINS
 
(On Chuck Hayes having rebounding success tonight): “That’s what Chuck Hayes does.  He’s one of those guys that’s 6’5”, about 260, he’s playing the center position and people wonder how (he does it).  Tonight, when he got 17 rebounds, with about nine or 10 on the offensive end, he just showed he has a nose for the ball.  He moves around, is a great defender and just does all of the dirty work.”
 
(On the loss tonight): “Any loss is frustrating.  It was definitely a game that we could have won.  We are going to take from it, get better and move on from this game.”
 
(On if not boxing out was the cause of being out-rebounded): “It’s not just boxing out.  It’s a team effort because we will get in situations where we have to rotate or scramble and the guards have to come in and take the bigs off of the glass.  It’s a team effort.   It wasn’t just a one-on-one matchup between Chuck and me or J.J. (Hickson) or Samardo (Samuels).  It was a team effort and we have to get better as a whole.”

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