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Monday January 17, 2011 7:47 PM

Rockets Break Through With Win Over Bucks

Martin scores 36 as Rockets record first home win of 2011 with 93-84 triumph over Milwaukee

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - The Rockets needed a win like this.

Yes, they needed a win of any kind at home – a place at which they hadn’t tasted victory since the start of 2011. And, yes, gutting out a win at Toyota Center while holding on to a fourth quarter lead was a tasty bit of icing on the cake, too.

More than any of that, however, Monday’s 93-84 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks gave the Rockets an opportunity to prove that they can win under less than ideal circumstances. They don’t need to set the nets ablaze to emerge victorious. They can muck it up and win ugly, too.

Make no mistake, Monday’s matinee affair in honor of MLK Day never came close to resembling a Monet. The less said about a first half that saw both teams throw up enough bricks to build a River Oaks mansion, the better. But there’s something to be said for coming through when you’ve been forced to play left-handed, as it were. And by prevailing on an afternoon when several of their usual strengths were either absent or held in check, that’s exactly what the Rockets did.

Houston’s primary offensive weapon, the 3-point shot, was nowhere to be found as the Rockets went a season’s worst 1-of-11 from deep. Heck, they had a hard time hitting shots of any kind, as the team sank just 36.8 percent of its field goal attempts against a stingy Milwaukee defense. Only Kevin Martin was seemingly immune as he delivered a strong offensive performance throughout, scoring a game-high 36 points thanks in no small part to his incredible knack for getting to the charity stripe, where he went 14-of-18 on the day.

But the rest of the Rockets overcame their shooting woes by hitting the glass hard and playing terrific team defense. Houston grabbed a whopping 17 offensive rebounds to gain invaluable extra possessions. And by getting timely stops on the defensive end, the Rockets were able to push the pace and trigger their potent transition game, creating the sort of easy shots that are largely impervious to the whims of a woeful shooting night.

“Every game isn’t going to be a pretty win like it was in Atlanta, where everybody was on fire and we were shooting great from the 3-point line,” said Chuck Hayes, a player who knows all about the importance of doing the dirty work. “Tonight was just one of those games where it was a true test of our character. It was going to be a dogfight and an ugly win for either team.”

Perhaps no player Monday embodied the importance of that sort of fighting spirit than Jordan Hill. Early in the second quarter, The Rockets second-year forward took a frightening fall following a foul by Milwaukee’s Drew Gooden. Hill’s face and shoulder seemed to bear the brunt of the impact and there were more than a few tense moments as Houston’s training staff came rushing to his aid. But Hill said later that he had only had the wind knocked out of him and after a brief timeout he returned to the floor to take – and make – his two free throws, before continuing on to record his second career double-double.

But numbers alone don’t measure the impact Hill made on the game with his energy, defense and rebounding. He, along with Hayes, helped to limit Bucks’ big man Andrew Bogut on both ends of the floor, mitigating a major Milwaukee weapon who had burned the Rockets the first time these two teams faced each other this season. And Hill also came through with a pair of pivotal buckets late in the fourth quarter to help squelch a Bucks’ rally that was threatening to evoke painful memories of Houston’s other home court losses in 2011.

“He gave us a lot tonight and he made two big shots in the fourth quarter for us,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman of Hill’s performance. “I really liked the way he reacted, too, when he got knocked down like that. He got right back up when he got his wind and he played. If we can get that from him consistently, that gives us a big boost.”

And 1s: Patrick Patterson sat out Monday’s contest with what the team termed upper respiratory distress. The Rockets reported that Patterson was feeling much better then he was when the symptoms first hit Saturday night in Atlanta, but the club decided to hpld him out for precautionary reasons. Coach Adelman said before Monday’s game that the rookie from Kentucky might be able to take part in Tuesday’s practice.

Also prior to the game, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced that the team assigned guard Ishmael Smith to Houston’s single-affiliation NBA D-League partner Rio Grande Valley. The rookie guard will be available to play in the Vipers’ next home game on Tuesday, Jan. 18 against the Maine Red Claws. Smith is the second Rockets player to be assigned to the Vipers this season, following rookie forward Patrick Patterson, who played in nine games for Rio Grande Valley during a month-long assignment from 11/9-12/13.

Smith (6-0, 175, Wake Forest), who earned a roster spot as an undrafted free agent this summer, has averaged 3.1 points, 2.4 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 24 games (three starts) with the Rockets. Smith has also been inactive for 11 games and a DNP-CD for five others. As the team’s starting point guard during the 2010 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Smith posted averages of 7.8 points (.581, 18-31 FG) and a team-best 4.8 assists in five starts.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

(On the game) “It's a good win. It was one of those where you had to grind out. The first half both teams were missing shots. The second half is where we finally stretched the lead and then kept it through the second half. It's a weird game to get 35 points one quarter and the rest of the time you struggle but we'll take it.”

(On Kevin Martin and the Rockets) “He played well and he got to the line again. He did a nice job on (John) Salmons too. You need a game like that when you are struggling in a game offensively. We had good shots. The first half we hit shot after shot but we couldn't make anything but we didn't cave into the situation which is good. Even the second half we didn't shoot all that much better but we kept working at the defensive end, kept working on the boards, had 17 offensive rebounds, so the effort was definitely there.”

(rebounding edge): Bogut had really hurt us up there so we tried to keep a body on him all the time whether it was Chuck or Jordan. Even defending the pick and rolls, we were trying to stay underneath because when he gets around the basket there’s not much we can do because he’s too long and he’s too big, so we wanted to try to keep him out away from the basket.

We were very active in getting to the offensive boards, too. A lot of that was our own penetration – we wanted to keep attacking them. They really closed the lane down but we thought we’d be able to get to the offensive boards.

(winning at home). Yeah, it’s been a year since we’ve won here. It’s crazy. I don’t have any answer for it obviously other than tonight we did the job, got some stops, rebounded the ball well and we executed, and those are things in this league you have to do in the fourth quarter.

(Jordan Hill): He gave us a lot tonight and he made two big shots in the fourth quarter for us. I really liked the way he reacted, too, when he got knocked down like that. He got right back up when he got his wind and he played. If we can get that from him consistently, that gives us a big boost.

KEVIN MARTIN

(On the Rockets maintaining their lead in the 4th quarter) “We just stayed with the game plan. Teams are going to hit shots. Jordan Hill was big tonight. I think he had a double-double and it seems like every time he plays well, we usually win. So, he is definitely a key to our success. Teammates, we were all looking for each other tonight.”

(On the Rockets taking it to the basket) “They (Bucks) have a couple of shooters. Corey (Maggette) was hitting shots tonight. When your outside shot is not going, you've got to get to the hole. There's not enough time in a basketball game to keep on shooting 3 point shots. Especially, when you are one for eleven. We stayed with what we know best and that is shooting the basketball. It doesn't matter where it is on the court.”

KYLE LOWRY

(difference in the second half): We pushed the tempo. What was the score, 39-39 at half? We got up and down, that was out game plan from the jump and after halftime everybody started to wake up and we started running more and pushing the tempo and getting more shots up.

(winning at home): We got that monkey off our back to win at home here, especially one that could have been a tough game. If we had lost, it would have hurt us but we pulled it out.

SHANE BATTIER

(On the key to the win) “We continued to attack. That's our best formula for winning. Milwaukee is a tough defensive team so we couldn't slow it down against them. It was nice to make some shots, finally, in the 4th (quarter).”

(On the tough win) “There are no bad wins in the NBA. We had been struggling at home. It was a tough game early start but at this point, we will take it.”

JORDAN HILL

(On falling on his back during the game) “It knocked the wind out of me a lot. I'm not injured. I was scared. It really knocked the wind out of me, I couldn't talk. I couldn't say anything. I had to say small little breaths and after that everything was good.”

My thing is if I’m not injured, I love the game of basketball – I just want to go out there and play and help my team out. All it did was knock the wind out of me. I had to stay down there for awhile and take small breaths and after that I was feeling good and just wanted to get back out there and play.

(On controlling the game) “It feels good. We have to keep it going. We came out there and in the first half we weren't shooting as good as we're used to. It was a good match up in the second half but we came out there with big spurts and we defended well and we started going after them.”

CHUCK HAYES

(winning grind it out game): Every game isn’t going to be a pretty win like it was in Atlanta, where everybody was on fire and we were shooting great from the 3-point line. Tonight was just one of those games where it was a true test of our character. It was going to be a dogfight and an ugly win for either team.

(concerns about déjà vu heading into fourth quarter?): There were no concerns. When you’re playing good defense, you always give yourself a great chance. Our defense was clicking so well that there really wasn’t any concern. Now if they were scoring up in the hundreds and we couldn’t stop anybody, then it would be a concern. But with our defense playing as well as it was, late in the fourth when they tried to make a push, we just had confidence because nobody on their team was in a good rhythm and we were playing great defense.

LUIS SCOLA

(On the sluggish start to the game) “We were struggling shooting, especially for me. I was struggling big time. We did a lot of good things besides that. We got a lot of assists and we didn't turn the ball over, almost at all. We had just five turnovers and we got some offensive rebounds. You can get away with bad shooting if you do a lot of other things.”

(On the play of Jordan Hill) “He had a great training camp with us. I thought he was going to have a great season. He is really playing better. He is really stepping up and he is getting some more minutes. He's just a great player so hopefully he will pick up the pace and he will start doing great things for us.”

BUCKS COACH SCOTT SKILES

(On the game) “Obviously we has tremendous trouble with Kevin Martin. We just couldn’t stay with him. That’s what the guy does. He can score, move without the basketball and get to the free throw line.”

(On the slow first half) “Both teams in the first half missed a ton of shots. It’s hard to score in the low eighties and win games in this league. Houston hurt us on the glass and we just didn’t execute well. Both teams initially, just couldn’t hit shots. We had a chance to come back because Houston wasn’t shooting well either.”

COREY MAGGETTE

(On his injury in the first half) “I twisted my left ankle and I’ve had problems with that since last year. I went in the locker room and was able to come out and play.”

(On the key to the game) “ Houston had some big rebounds and Kevin Martin hit big shot after big shot. We were right there but we just gave Houston too many opportunities.”

(On Martin’s play) “He’s a very crafty player and he knows how to drive and get to the free throw line. You have to pick your poison in guarding him because he is such a great shooter.”

ANDREW BOGUT

(On his team’s play) “For some reason we had no energy. It was looking like everybody was tired. It looked like we were just worn out. We have to get some energy as a team. We are all searching for something.”

(On the Rockets) “ Houston was fresh and played very hard. It was the kind of game when the first who makes a big run was going to win the game. Kudos to them because they did it.”

(On Kevin Martin) “He’s an unorthodox player but that is what makes him so hard to stop. He is herky-jerky and moves well without the ball and also shoots the ball well from outside. He is a great player.

JOHN SALMONS

(On the game) “In the first half neither team shot the ball well. It was an ugly first half. We couldn’t hit shots in the fourth quarter to stay with the Rockets.”

(On Kevin Martin’s play) “K-Mart can score with the best of them. I’ve seen it before first-hand. He can get to the line and put the basketball in the hole. He is one of the best scorers in the league.”

NOTES

The Rockets recorded their first home win of 2011 with a 93-84 victory over the Bucks, snapping a four-game losing streak at Toyota Center.

Houston has now captured the last 11 straight home regular season games against Milwaukee (8-0 in regular season at Toyota Center), making the Bucks the only opponent that has yet to win a regular season game in Toyota Center.

The Rockets held the Bucks to just 84 points today, ending Houston’s run of allowing at least 100 points in 11 consecutive games (12/29/10-1/15/11).

Houston, which finished with a season-low 39 first-half points (prev. low: 41 on 11/16/10 vs. Chicago), responded with 35 points in the third quarter alone.

The Rockets also netted a season-low 18 first-quarter points (prev. low: 20 on 12/31/10 vs. Toronto), but limited the Bucks to just 15 points on 7-of-24 (.292) shooting in that same quarter.

The Bucks set Houston’s opponent season lows in free throws made (5), free throws attempted (11) and free throws percentage (.455). This comes one game after the Hawks went just 10-of-12 at the line at Atlanta (1/15/11).

The Rockets were a season-low 1-of-11 (.091) from downtown today. Houston is now shooting just .219 (16-73 3FG) from 3-point range over the last four home games.

Houston outrebounded the Hawks by a 45-32 (+13) margin at Atlanta (1/15/11) and took the battle of the boards by a 53-44 (+9) count over the Bucks today, matching Houston’s season high for rebounds (53 on 10/26/10 at L.A. Lakers).

Kevin Martin recorded a game-high 36 points (11-23 FG) today, which including a season-high 18 trips to the free throw line (14-18 FT).

Luis Scola posted 19 points (8-25 FG) and 14 boards, giving Scola a double-double in four of his last six games.

Jordan Hill, who recorded a career-best 16 points (8-12 FG) and pulled down eight boards at Atlanta (1/15/11), notched the second double-double of his career with 10 points (4-10 FG) and a career-high-tying 10 rebounds today.

Corey Maggette netted a season-high 25 points (11-18 FG, 2-4 3FG) today for his seventh 20-point performance of the season. His previous season high was 23 points at Minnesota (10/29/10).

Drew Gooden picked up his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points (6-9 FG) and a team-high 11 rebounds off the bench for Milwaukee.

Andrew Bogut finished with 10 points (5-11 FG, 0-4 FT) and 10 boards for his team-leading 15th double-double of 2010-11.

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