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Sunday April 10, 2011 0:03 AM

Rockets Romp Past Road-Weary Clips

Balanced effort powers Houston to 99-78 victory over Los Angeles

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - It's sort of become a tradition around these parts: someone gets hurt, no excuses are made, and the next man up fills in, contributes and helps his club make up the difference.

No team relishes injuries and the Rockets are certainly not the exception in that regard. They are, however, quite experienced, perhaps even tragically so, in the art of overcoming them. So when Kyle Lowry (sore left foot) and Luis Scola (sore left knee) were ruled out of Saturday night’s contest against the Clippers, it probably should come as no surprise that the Rockets’ response was to brush off those absences and run roughshod over Los Angeles on the way to a dominating 99-78 victory.

“I’m just really proud of our team,” said Rockets head Coach Rick Adelman after the game. “They came out ready to play and that’s what this league’s all about… Goran (Dragic) came in and he was terrific subbing for Kyle. Brad (Miller)was terrific and gave us a great lift. The team had 29 assists. We outrebounded (the Clippers) which is one of the better rebounding teams. We really had a nice game.”

Indeed, the Rockets received contributions from up and down the roster. On a night when no Houston player scored more than 16 points, the Rockets rustled up more than enough on the offensive end thanks to the fact that seven Houston players topped double-digit point totals. As Adelman mentioned, Dragic was exceptional in his debut as a Rockets starter, stuffing the stat sheet with 14 points, 7 assists and a career-high 10 rebounds. Miller, meanwhile, was superb off the bench, expertly orchestrating Houston’s offense from the high-post while recording 16 points, 5 boards and 5 assists in 26 minutes of action – the most on-court time he’s logged since early January.

And Houston did the dirty work on the defensive end, too, limiting LA to a Rockets' opponent season-low shooting percentage, as the Clips managed to connect on just 34.7 percent of their shots from the field. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the tone-setter in that regard was Chuck Hayes, who schooled the league’s surefire Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin in the art of low post defense. LA’s newest superstar simply had no answer for Hayes’ defensive wizardry. Griffin repeatedly attempted to impose his will on the low block, only to find himself forced to toss up one off-balance, ill-conceived shot after another. The end result: a miserable 6-of-18 shooting night for the Blake Show, and another feather for the cap of Chuck Hayes, who by now could probably retrofit a large bird with all the superior work he’s put in against many of the league’s best big men this year.

“[Griffin] is such a focal point for them – shoot, even his missed dunks are exciting – he’s just a handful and so powerful,” said Adelman. “But that’s one thing about Chuck: he just fights him and fights him and fights him and makes him make a shot and makes him make plays. It was just a terrific game by him, too.”

Even given everything Hayes has accomplished this year, it still elicits a smile to see the Chuckwagon boast better box score totals than a guy like Griffin. But true to form, Hayes says he’s far more focused on ensuring a strong finishing kick for his team, rather than individual accomplishments.

“If we can win out the rest of the way and go 44-38, that would be great and show the character of this team and this coaching staff,” said Hayes, after wrapping up a night that saw him score 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while also grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.

“Since the break, we've been playing great basketball, great team energy basketball. You can see it in our play. You can see it in our chemistry and you can see it in just how much fun we are having. For us to come up short and not be able to advance to the postseason kind of put a damper on it but we have a great bunch of guys and we are going to finish the season strong and we will continue to have fun as we go along these last two games.”

And 1s: Houston’s win moved Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman into a tie with Bill Fitch for 8th on the NBA’s all-time list for regular season career coaching victories with 944. This season alone, Adelman has already moved past coaching legends Dick Motta and Red Auerbach on the all-time list, giving him plenty of time to reflect upon the significance of this accomplishment.

“Looking back on it it’s pretty neat to see the (names),” he said. “Motta, Auerbach and Fitch – that puts you in pretty good company. The guys ahead of you are great coaches and this team has battled so much it’s kind of really been something, passing two and tying one with this group because they’ve played so well. It’s something I’m proud of and what I like about these guys is they were happy after the game for me and that makes it special.”

Said Hayes: “He’s one of the best coaches ever and we’ve got him here in Houston. If you look at the guys in this locker room and the way we started this season and the way he’s taken the pieces he has and worked with them and put them together – man, we’re privileged to play for one of the best coaches ever.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

I’m just really proud of our team. We caught a team that was tired; they’ve been on the road and playing some tough games but we were missing two starters and our guys stepped up. They came out ready to play and that’s what this league’s all about. You may run into a situation like that but you’ve got to take advantage of it and that’s what we did. Guys like Goran came in and he was terrific subbing for Kyle. Brad was terrific and gave us a give lift. The team had 29 assists. We outrebounded that team which is one of the better rebounding teams. We really had a nice game.

(on Chuck’s defense on Griffin): I think it takes a lot away from them. Again, I know they played four games in five nights but how can you not give Chuck Hayes all the credit he deserves because he doesn’t give him anything easy. That’s half the battle. [ Griffin] is such a focal point for them – shoot, even his missed dunks are exciting – he’s just a handful and so powerful. But that’s one thing about Chuck: he just fights him and fights him and fights him and makes him make a shot and makes him make plays. It was just a terrific game by him, too.

(on Brad Miller’s play): I tried Jordan off the bench with Patrick, and we really were kind of stymied offensively a lot of the time. Even defensively, they’re both young and get lost. But we were winning games, so I went with them. I thought they gave us some athleticism that we needed and I played Chuck a lot more. But after the game the other night, I just told Brad, ‘I need you to play with the second group.’ We played him with Jordan before, we played him with Patrick before and he’s just a stabilizer for the second group. Goran being new, it helps him having Brad on the floor because he can throw it to him and he can cut and he can run our stuff. Whereas before, all the perimeter people had to handle the ball, so I thought I was going to go with him and he’s responded. He played great tonight.

(on tying Bill Fitch on the all-time coaching wins list): Throw all the clichés out there, looking back on it it’s pretty neat the (names): Motta, Auerbach and Fitch – that puts you in pretty good company. The guys ahead of you are great coaches and this team has battled so much it’s kind of really been something, passing two and tying one with this group because they’ve played so well. It’s something I’m proud of and what I like about these guys is they were happy after the game for me and that makes it special.

CHUCK HAYES

(defending Griffin): It’s no different than the last three times I played against them. I just make him work, man. Strength for strength, I’m right there with him. I just can’t let him look like an athlete and get running stops.

He hit a jumper on me in the second quarter I think when he got his tech. And he must have dribbled the ball six times in one spot and just couldn’t go anywhere. Him and his coach were begging for a foul because they figured there was a lot of contact. If I can do that for the whole 30 or 40 minutes I’m going to play, I’m going to win that battle because eventually he’s going to get tired. Eventually he’s not going to want the ball in the post because he knows strength for strength, he’s going to have to use all his energy just to score two points.

(on the mindset of the team after playoff possibility ended): We just want to have fun. We want to go out here and compete and have fun… If can win out the rest and go 44-38, that would be great and it shows the character of this team and this coaching staff.

(on Adelman tying Bill Fitch): He’s one of the best coaches ever and we’ve got him here in Houston. If you look at the guys in this locker room and the way we started this season and the way he’s taken the pieces he has and worked with them and put them together – man, we’re privileged to play for one of the best coaches ever.

(On the win) “You've got to tip your hat off to these guys. We were short handed again with Kyle (Lowry) out and Luis (Scola) out. Goran (Dragic) played great. Patrick (Patterson) came alive in the second half and what Brad (Miller) gave us off the bench, tonight was great for us. We were able to beat those guys on our home court. We want to finish the season strong.”

(On the Rockets play as of late) “Since the break, we've been playing great basketball, great team energy basketball. You can see it in our play. You can see it in our chemistry and you can see it in just how much fun we are having. For us to come up short and not be able to advance to the postseason kind of put a damper on it but we have a great bunch of guys and we are going to finish the season strong and we will continue to have fun as we go along these last two games.”

BRAD MILLER

(on Adelman tying Bill Fitch): I’ve played for coach for quite a lot of those wins and you enjoy playing for coach and to see him succeed the way he has with all these wins. I told him he was old – to be on that high on the list obviously he’s been around a long time. I’m just proud and glad because it shows we’re still fighting and it’s just a good day right now with everything that’s going on.

(on playing 25 minutes): It’s just a matter of Scola’s out, Kyle’s out, we only had 10 guys to dress so just fight through it. Two minutes, 25 minutes, no minutes – I’ll deal with it next week.

CHASE BUDINGER

(On the Rockets mentality going into this game) “It was a long shot (making the playoffs) but we still had hope and that's all you could really have. You hoped that Memphis would go down but they won that game and we came into shoot around today and we knew that we're professionals and we have a job to do and we're just going to try and win this game and to try to finish the season strong. That's what we were trying to do as a team.”

GORAN DRAGIC

(On how his back feels) “The pain was big but after when I stood on my legs I felt something like a bump or bruise so I knew that I could continue (playing).”

(On if he still hurt for the rest of the game) “Yes, definitely. Especially when I jumped from that leg or both legs. It felt like something was pinching me but I'll just have to go through that and I can play. It was one of those things when you have to go through it and have to fight it.”

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS COACH VINNY DEL NEGRO

(On the game) “We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Blake ( Griffin) was dead as were some of our other guys. Houston got a lot of rebounds and we kept missing shots. We didn’t pressure Houston like we should have. We got 95 shot attempts and just couldn’t make enough shots to put pressure on Houston.”

(On Chuck Hayes) “He is a big, strong body. It is hard to move him. He is like a tree stump. You have to give him a lot of credit. He knows what he has to do and gets it done.”

BLAKE GRIFFIN

(On the game) “ Houston is a good defensive team. We played with a lack of energy. A lot of our guys were drained from the game last night and we missed a lot of shots.”

(On his game) “You could say I let us down tonight but the weight isn’t only on my shoulders. It’s about improvement and growth on a consistent basis but I always think I can get better.”

(On Chuck Hayes) “He is extremely smart and he knows exactly what to do and what angles he takes away from you. He doesn’t look like the typical big man shut down. But he is so strong and he gets the job done.”

ERIC GORDON

(On the game) “We were drained after the Dallas game. We couldn’t make any runs and we didn’t make enough stops. We didn’t push the ball as much as we could. Houston executed and played hard and hit a lot of their 3’s.”

DeANDRE JORDAN

(On his play) “I’m getting the opportunity to play and I’m getting a lot better feel for the pace of the game. I know my role and I am continuing to improve.”

(On being a restricted free agent next season) “When you are young and growing up in Houston, you always dream about one day playing for the Rockets. I don’t think about that now, but I will look at the opportunities with my agent after the season, as they present themselves.”

NOTES

Houston’s attendance of 18,089 tonight marks the 13th sellout at Toyota Center in 2010-11.

The Rockets racked up a 99-78 victory over the Clippers tonight, securing Houston’s eighth winning season over the last nine campaigns. Houston has now won its last 18 games when holding an opponent under 100 points.

Houston’s 99-78 win (+21) tonight marked its fourth 20-point victory of the season: 120-94 (+26) vs. Minnesota (11/7/10), 123-101 (+22) at Sacramento (3/7/11) and 112-87 (+25) at New Jersey (3/29/11).

The Rockets blocked 11 shots tonight, which marked the fifth time this season Houston has reached double digits in blocks (Rockets record: 5-0).

Houston held the Clippers to an opponent season-low .347 (33-95 FG) from the field, surpassing the previous mark also held by the Clippers (.364, 32-88 FG and 3-18 3FG on 1/26/11).

The Rockets pulled down a season-best 58 rebounds (57 on 2/23/11 at Cleveland) tonight. Houston has now reached at least 50 boards 11 times this season (Rockets record: 9-2).

Houston was 10-of-24 from downtown tonight, giving the Rockets an 18-5 mark this season when hitting 10 or more 3-pointers in a game.

Rick Adelman tied Bill Fitch (944) for eighth on the NBA’s all-time list for regular season coaching wins.

Kyle Lowry (sore left foot) and Luis Scola (sore left knee) did not dress out for tonight’s game. They are both listed as day-to-day.

Brad Miller posted 16 points (5-6 FG, 2-2 FT), five rebounds and five assists tonight, while tying his career high in 3-pointers made (4-4 3FG).

Chase Budinger netted 16 points (7-15 FG) to go along with his season-high-tying nine rebounds, four assists and career-high-tying two blocked shots. Budinger has now scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games.

Goran Dragic, who netted his most points as a member of the Rockets with 16 points (6-9 FG, 4-5 3FG) at New Orleans (4/6/11), made his first start with Houston tonight. Dragic finished 14 points (5-13 FG, 2-5 3FG), a career-high 10 rebounds (seven on 11/11/09 vs. New Orleans) and seven assists.

Chuck Hayes recorded 12 points (6-9 FG), 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals tonight, extending the longest double-digit rebounding streak of his career to five consecutive games (4/1/11-4/9/11). Hayes has now picked up six of his single-season, career-best 10 double-doubles since the All-Star Break.

Kevin Martin added 16 points (6-17 FG), five boards and five assists tonight, while Patrick Patterson made his fourth career start.

Eric Gordon, who led the Clippers with 24 points (8-18 FG) at Los Angeles (3/2/11), had a team-high 19 points (7-20 FG, 3-3 FT) tonight.

Blake Griffin notched 13 points (6-18 FG) and 10 rebounds tonight, giving him four straight double-doubles against the Rockets this season.

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