• Print
Friday January 20, 2012 1:05 AM

Rockets Hang On For OT Win

Dalembert comes to the rescue, helps Houston rally past Hornets 90-88 in overtime

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - Watch NBA basketball long enough and it eventually becomes crystal clear that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. No lead is safe. Hot hands go cold. Bad teams can beat up the very best.

Those kind of things happen on an almost nightly basis in the Association so one would assume that, by now, seasoned observers of the game would know better than to be caught off guard by the roller coaster ride that regularly takes place.  

And yet … somehow it still never ceases to surprise. Crazy things occur that still amaze and confound: things like an offense that can seemingly do no wrong one half, suddenly growing positively, painfully stagnant the next; late-game leads that appear comfortable and safe veritably vanishing into thin air; and then, when all hope seems lost with no buckets in sight, offensive rescue found in the form of a defensive specialist.

That was Thursday night’s Rockets-Hornets contest in a nutshell; the story of two teams heading in opposite directions, staging a strange, thrilling and heart-pounding shrine to the theater of the absurd. At times the basketball on display was beautiful; at others it was both gruesome and grotesque. But never, no matter the aesthetic appeal at the time, could you look away. And when the dust settled and the Rockets reigned as the last men standing with a 90-88 overtime win, the only thing that mattered was the end result.

Yes, it was that kind of night at Toyota Center, an evening that felt for all the world as if it would possess none of the dramatics that eventually ensued; not with the Rockets singeing the nets to the tune of 62 percent shooting in the first quarter and surely not with Kevin Martin exploding for 27 points in the opening half. Even when Houston’s offense went off the rails in the third quarter, it still seemed as if they would simply shift gears and ride their defense to a worry-free win. Sure, the Rockets had failed to deliver the knockout blow and allowed the Hornets to hang around but danger did not in any way seem imminent.

Right around then, of course, would probably have been a good time for a crash course reminder on the fickle, fast-changing nature of the game. As Houston’s turnovers and missed shots kept piling up, its lead just kept on shrinking. The fatigue of a 7-games-in-10-days stretch kept the Rockets’ legs rooted to the floor; the crisp cuts and slick ball movement from the first half were nowhere to be seen. And by the time the horn sounded with the two teams tied at 82, Houston had just put the wraps on a quarter that saw them tie a franchise record for fewest points (7) scored in a period.

Truth be told, the Rockets were probably fortunate to make it to overtime. Jarrett Jack, so solid in bringing New Orleans all the way back, missed a free throw that would have given his team the lead with 18 seconds left. And a Jason Smith jumper at the buzzer was halfway down before mercifully bouncing out and giving the Rockets a reprieve.

And in that ensuing extra frame, the final plot twist was revealed. With Houston down five with fewer than two minutes to go and looking, as Kevin Martin said afterward, “like the life was out of us,” Samuel Dalembert delivered a dose of magic straight out of the “How To Be A Hero” handbook.

He started his club’s rally by doing what he’d done all night and, really, what he’s done ever since his insertion into the starting lineup: dominate the offensive glass. There’s a reason, after all, the man is top-5 in the entire league in terms of offensive rebound rate. With his team in desperate need of something, anything, to go through the hoop, Dalembert devoured an errant shot from Martin, went up strong while getting fouled and made the ensuing free throw to complete the 3-point play. 90 seconds later, he was at it again, racing the length of the court so that he could be perfectly positioned to recover another Martin miss, this time slamming it home to provide the perfect exclamation mark to his 15-point, 17-rebound performance; one which propelled the Rockets to their fifth straight victory and sixth win in seven games.

That’s life in the NBA for you: Some days nothing makes sense such that, even on a roster packed with plenty of firepower, the guy signed to be his team’s defensive stopper can turn into its offensive savior du jour. You just … never … know. That's why we watch. And that's why, no matter how ugly the play might be from time to time, the end result can still leave you standing and screaming for more. 

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(how did it turn so much?): I don’t know, good question. It was pretty easy there for awhile in that first quarter. After that, we got into the third and just kind of actually started playing with not enough ball movement, not enough body movement, we didn’t attack off pick-and-roll – we just got really passive. Everything was east-west; there was nothing north-south. And if we’re not going north-south and attacking then it’s hard to play.

Sammy was phenomenal tonight; he had 15 points and 17 rebounds. That little rundown from behind, he got a mildly sprained ankle and we can’t afford to have that big horse go down but his follow-up was phenomenal.

But I tell you what, from an offensive standpoint we just had no flow in that second half after having a lot of flow early. When that happens you can just feel it coming on and it’s a bad feeling.

Going into the fourth I felt pretty comfortable that our defense was doing a good job … the shots that they were making were challenged – our defense was solid it’s just that we couldn’t convert anything. We need a little film session tomorrow and clean up some stuff.

(turnovers): Way too many turnovers. We were just playing in crowds. They were playing everything pretty soft and we weren’t turning corners and getting clean beats off people. We just played in a crowd a lot and that’s when you’ve got to throw the pass a little earlier and just allow the ball movement to clear some of that clutter up and we didn’t do that. We took an extra dribble tonight, played in crowds and when you do what we did tonight you’re going to have turnovers. We didn’t have ball movement, we didn’t cut at bodies and then shake off them; our offense was really poor. But the bottom line is we won.

I told the team: you’re going to have some of these. I watched the Dallas-LA game last night and it was just like a microcosm of this. You think that as you play a lot of games you get more rhythm but it seems right now there’s some lack of rhythm out there; everybody’s clapping off beat right now.

SAMUEL DALEMBERT

(On the Rockets giving up the early big lead) “We started great. Things were going so well for us offensively but we kind of loosened up a little bit on defense at the end and they (Hornets) came back. You've got to give them credit. They keep fighting. Some teams give up.”

(On the Rockets problems defensively in the second half) “I think that the offense was going so well and then we just kind of forgot that the defense was making the offense work for us. We let them (Hornets) get easy stuff. I think we realized that and at the last minute we knew what we had to do and we will have some games like that.”

LUIS SCOLA

We weren’t playing horrible but we weren’t playing right. They weren’t punishing us for the mistakes we were making and that’s how we got the advantage. But sooner or later when you’re not playing well, they come back … those are all the bad things about today’s game but the good part is we came back and still got the win in overtime. It should have been much easier but we got the win, regardless.

KYLE LOWRY

My teammates did a great job picking me up tonight. Kevin did a good job the first half and Sammy down the stretch was amazing. We definitely struggled in the fourth quarter and I think we were a little bit tired. We were definitely fatigued tonight. New Orleans played great defense and they junked it up a bit on us but my teammates definitely picked me up tonight and I’m thankful for that one.

(On the Hornets hanging around and getting back into the game) “Everybody says that that team (New Orleans) will never give up. Everybody around the league knows that. No matter how much they are down or up, they're going to play hard and that is the type of team that they are.”

KEVIN MARTIN

Tonight was a gutsy performance by us. With two-and-a-half minutes, down by five in overtime, it just looked like the life was out of us but we found a way to pull that one out.

(on his 27-point first half): It was nice that somebody left my 3-point shot in my locker before the game – I’d kind of missed it. But it was a great team effort outside of that and we just have to keep this thing rolling.

(on Dalembert’s offensive production of late): Sam was always a guy you just worried about on the defensive end. Wow, the last week, I don’t know where he ordered that from but it’s nice to see. He’s playing well and that’s a big key to us right now winning five in a row.

COURTNEY LEE

(On their play in their first half) “In the beginning we were clicking offensively. In the second half, shots weren't falling so at that point we had to be able to execute our plays and make sure we had good looks and easy shots.”

(On the layup and whether he should have dunked it) “When I was dribbling the ball down the court, I saw the crowd standing up and I was like, 'Hold up, I do not have anything in the tank right now' but as my calves get stronger those plays will definitely be dunks.”

HORNETS HEAD COACH MONTY WILLIAMS

(On his team’s play in overtime) “We couldn’t get off the shot that we wanted at the end.  They were playing well against the pick and roll.  I was really upset with the way Jason (Smith) was held toward the end.”

(On his teams play) “Our guys were mentally tough and it’s really hard for me to pick on any bad things that we did.  I thought that we found a good group of guys towards the end of the game.  We have to believe as a team we can pull games out; we have to make better decisions at the end. Our guys were down afterwards.  I always tell them, ‘give the fight and do your best,’ and we did everything we could to win the game.”

(On the Rockets) “Houston just didn’t make shots in the second half like they did in the first half.  That and our defense got us back in the game.”

JASON SMITH

(On his shot at the end of regulation) “It felt good leaving my hands.  It rattled in and rattled out; it was tough.”

(On the teams play) “I’m only taking positives from this game.  We held one of the best offensive teams in the league to only seven points in the fourth quarter.  We played hard and that’s what we have to do every game to give ourselves a chance to win.”

(On the Rockets) “Houston didn’t have a very good fourth quarter and I would like to think that we had something to do with that.  They made the plays at the end and we didn’t.”

JARETT JACK

(On the tougher defense in overtime) “It’s all heightened at the end of the game.  They upped their effort at the close the way teams are supposed to.”

(On defending Martin) “We were able to get a hand up on his shots in the second half, but still couldn’t pull out the victory.”

TREVOR ARIZA

(On defending Kevin Martin) “In the first half he went off and really got into a good rhythm and it was too easy for him.  In the second half, I made an effort to get up tougher on him.  Definitely this loss is disappointing because we were fighting until the end.  We have to forget about this and come back next game.”

CARL LANDRY

(On the team’s recent play) “We are sticking together and we are fighting as a team.  We are trying to stay together.  We have to go out and grind it out; it’s been tough.  Now it’s just about us finding a way to win.”

NOTES

Houston captured a 90-88 OT victory over New Orleans tonight despite tying the franchise record for fewest points in a quarter with seven in the fourth (7 in 4th on 11/15/91 at L.A. Lakers and 7 in 3rd on 12/29/02 vs. New Orleans). Oddly enough, the last time an NBA team won despite scoring seven or fewer points in the fourth quarter was a 101-92 win by the Hornets (6 pts. in 4th) vs. Seattle (4/4/07).

The last time the Rockets scored fewer than 10 points in quarter was a nine-point fourth quarter vs. San Antonio (11/14/06).

The Rockets extended several streaks tonight. Houston has now won five consecutive games overall, as well as four in a row at home. The Rockets have also recorded 18 consecutive victories when holding an opponent under 90 points.

Houston set its season high for first quarter scoring with 32 points tonight (prev. high: 31 on 12/31/11) en route matching their season best for first-half points (58, now done three times).

The Rockets pulled down 53 boards tonight, giving Houston four 50-plus rebounding games this season (Rockets record: 4-0).

Houston tied their season high for steals with 11 tonight. The Rockets also recorded a season-best 11 thefts in the last game vs. Detroit (1/17/12).

Kevin Martin finished with a season-high 32 points (12-27 FG, 5-12 3FG) to go with a season-high eight rebounds. Martin actually recorded 27 points (10-14 FG, 5-8 3FG, 2-2 FT) over the opening two quarters tonight, marking the most points in a half by a Rockets players since Martin netted 28 second-half points last year vs. Portland (1/5/11).

Courtney Lee netted a season-high 17 points (7-12 FG) with three steals on the tonight. His previous season best was 15 points (6-10 FG, 2-3 3FG) at Orlando (12/26/11). Lee was actually the only Rockets reserve to score tonight.

Samuel Dalembert notched 15 points (7-14 FG) and 17 rebounds (9 offensive) tonight. Dalembert is now averaging 12.8 rebounds (6.2 offensive) over the last five contests.

Kyle Lowry added 10 points (4-11 FG), nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals tonight. Lowry has now handed out at least eight assists in nine games this season (Rockets record: 6-3).

Jason Smith topped the Hornets with a season-best 17 points (8-16 FG) and equaled his season-high three blocked shots tonight.

Jarrett Jack totaled 15 points (6-15 FG) and a team-high seven assists tonight. The New Orleans bench was led by Jack’s 19 points (5-10 FG, 7-8 FT) in the last meeting at New Orleans (4/6/11).

Marco Belinelli totaled 15 points (6-12 FG) tonight. His season high in scoring still stands at 20 points set vs. Minnesota (1/13/12).

Emeka Okafor finished with eight points (4-9 FG) and 12 rebounds. Okafor had 17 points (7-8 FG) and 15 boards in the last game in Houston (1/14/11).

Got a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman. And for up to the second news and injury updates follow the Rockets and Jason on Twitter.