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Saturday April 2, 2011 2:16 AM

Rockets Relish The Moment

Houston's heart-stopping 119-114 OT victory over Spurs keeps hope alive

Jason Friedman

HOUSTON - Every now and then, we’re blessed with moments when words lose all meaning. Time slows down, distractions fade, and all that’s left is an overpowering sense that right now, right this very second, is a moment to be savored and embraced for everything it’s worth.

You can’t describe it, so don’t even try. In fact, it’s usually best if you don’t speak at all. Instead, just sit back, take it all in and bask in the glow. There’s no telling how long it will last; no way of knowing when fortune will show such favor again. Simply allow the reverie to reach its climax and do its work. And when the reality of the world starts rushing back in to break the spell, just whisper a heartfelt word of thanks and know that you’ve been blessed.

It’s a funny thing that sporting events are capable of producing just such magical moments. Perhaps it’s a sign that we care more than we should, or maybe it’s just that we truly are all kids at heart and athletic competition, whether through watching or participation, wields a special power to remind us of that very fact. Whatever the case may be, there should be little question that all 18,059 fans lucky enough to attend Friday night’s sold out game between the Rockets and Spurs were treated to the sort of event that somehow leaves you speechless even while screaming your lungs out.

Houston’s heart-stopping 119-114 overtime triumph had it all – and then some. In truth, this was precisely the sort of game you pray you’re going to witness the moment you purchase your tickets. It had a great storyline: two old rivals desperate and eager to do anything for a win – the Rockets in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Spurs to get back on track and snap their 5-game losing streak. It had spectacular performances: Tony Parker was jaw-droppingly brilliant, while Kevin Martin’s overtime performance came straight out of the How To Be Clutch (and I’m not talking about the Bear) handbook. And it most definitely had memorable plays.

Boy, did it ever.

Kyle Lowry and his game-tying, 15-foot fadeaway in the final seconds of regulation that was made to look so easy it should have had Sade’s “Smooth Operator” playing in the background as Houston’s point guard probed the Spurs’ defense before picking his spot, stepping back and authoring the latest chapter in his rapidly-expanding big moment biography.

The aforementioned Martin, needing just a fraction of a second and a hint of space to knock down the 3-pointer that put Houston, finally, in front to stay with 1:42 left in overtime. From there he proceeded to ice the game from the free throw line, putting the finishing touches on an extra frame that saw him score 9 of his team’s 11 points, all part of his game-high 33.

And do not forget Luis Scola on the possession immediately following Martin’s mammoth trey, sliding into position just in the nick of time allowing him to get the best of fellow countrymen Manu Ginobili, whose foray into the lane finished not with a bucket, but a game-changing charging call, giving the ball back to Houston and preserving the Rockets’ advantage.

Wonderful, heart-stopping, breathtaking plays all. And yet none of them would have been possible were it not for Courtney Lee’s gambit in the final minute of regulation. His steal and subsequent hoop didn’t just save the game, it saved the Rockets’ season. Down three, 40 seconds left, Spurs’ ball – San Antonio had this one in the bag. That is, until Lee stepped forward, played the passing lane to perfection and finished the play with a lay-in that set off the most blissful bit of delirium Toyota Center has experienced this season.

Right then and there, the moment began: fans feeding off the energy of their team and, in turn, reciprocating with an outpouring of adulation and excitement that propels the club to previously unattainable levels. It’s the symbiotic ideal every team and every fan yearns to experience; a love-in that takes both parties to a height neither could ever hope to reach on their own. The Rockets made it happen Friday night. The fans responded. And the moment was too perfect for words.

“I just can’t say enough about our team,” said an exhausted yet elated Rick Adelman after the game.

He didn’t have to. In fact, nothing needed be said at all, save this:

Thank you.



I just can’t say enough about our team. In my mind, that might be the best win we’ve had all year because we had this team coming in here that had lost five in a row, which they hadn’t done for decades, fighting with the Lakers for the best record, and they came out and played hard, really took it to us in the second half and our guys just kept playing. It was really a pleasure to see it. Kyle made the big shot, we got a couple stops we needed to get – just a great win.

It was a win that, when you look back on it, with everything that was riding (on it), playing the best team in the league, you have to give our guys a lot of credit – they never cracked.

Our guys came in with an attitude they they’re going to have to beat us and that’s how we have to approach Sunday’s game and next Tuesday’s game – they’ve got to beat us, we’re not beating ourselves, we’re going to put the effort out and see how long we can take this thing because you never know what can happen as long as we’re still winning games.

(On Courtney Lee) “That's why I left him in there. That's why I went with that group because I wanted him on (Manu) Ginobili and he's (Lee) really active and he played him (Ginobili) smart. We had seven guys in double figures. It was a win that you look back on with everything that was riding on playing the best team in the league. Gotta give our guys a lot of credit, they never cracked. “


(On the win) “It was just a great game. The Spurs are the best team in the NBA. They always play great. There's not one season where they don't play great. They are a great team and they've had a lot of success. It's always a fun game to play. It's always a big game. It's a rivalry match. Because of all those things I like to play against them.”

(On the importance of the win) “We are in a little playoff series. We've got six games left and we need to win them all. The only way you're going to have a chance to play, maybe we can lose one, but we're going to need a lot of wins. There is nothing we can do about what they (Grizzlies) do. We can't control that so we need to win. It was a huge win today. This is the best team in the NBA right now. We played great I think.”


(On the win) “Three out of the four games (against the Spurs) came down to the wire. Three out of four could have gone either way. Today, it bounced our way. Tony (Parker) just couldn't hit a corner three. He had three open looks, two air balls and one rimmed out. That just shows finally the last bounce went our way.”

(On the Rockets forcing overtime) “We go down three (points), we don't make a shot. Kyle (Lowry), Kevin (Martin) and Courtney (Lee) do a three quarter press and come up with a steal and we made it and cut it to one (point lead). Sometimes you don't need that. You don't need those momentums but the ball bounced our way. We were able to foul Timmy ( Duncan) who made one out of two and Kyle made a great shot. Things were going our way and we just had to hurry up and get the game over with.”


(On the steal in the last 30 seconds of the game) “I tried to make a play on the inbound pass. (Tony) Parker did a good job of keeping it alive and then I saw that George Hill was trapped up to and he was bobbling the ball and (Tony) Parker was running too. I was the next man in rotation so I just shot the gap. I was able to get the steal.”

(On the meaning of this win and the last six games) “Our sense of urgency is way up there. Like you said, we have to win them all and we have to continue to win. It helps being at home, protecting home court and the crowd and fans behind us helps us out a lot. So, we have to carry it over to the next game and just every game from there.”


(On the Rockets being able to get a steal near the end of regulation) ”We knew we had to get stops on their pick and rolls and we also knew we could switch a lot of stuff with the team we had out there. We wanted to pressure them a little bit. Chuck (Hayes) was fighting (Tim) Duncan hard and it worked out in our favor.”

(On the key to the win) “We were talking before the game how we were always so close so we just had to put in an extra effort on the defensive end and finally pull one out. It means a lot to us. Especially, where we are right now standing-wise.”


(On the last possession – what happened on the time out) “Don’t ask me. I have no idea why we didn’t foul. I tried to get it but they didn’t hear me. There is no excuse, they should know the score and time left.”

(On the game) “It was a tough loss and Houston played great. We played with more of a purpose in the second half and that was the good part of the game. We threw the ball away when we had chances at the end. It’s unbelievable that could happen again.

(On the team’s current play) “We’re going to see what we are made out of. If we can dig down deeper, we’ll see if we are worth the way we played this season or not.”


(On the game) “We know it’s always a tough game with Houston. We didn’t finish the game and they made more plays than we did. We were focused to start the game and they made shots early. We countered that in the second half but we just couldn’t finish.”


(On the last possession) “I don’t know. We needed three and I thought it was better not to foul. I didn’t hear Pop yelling.”

(On the game) “They are all tough losses now. We are not making plays at the end of games. We have to stay positive and hope it turns our way. We’ll see what we’re made of.”

(On Kyle Lowry’s play) “Kyle has been carrying their team lately and is becoming one of the best point guards in the league.”


(On the game) “Definitely, this was a tough loss. Houston always plays us tough and tonight was no different. Houston made big shots and big stops. Our defense has become non-existent at this point. We have to get it back.”


Tonight’s crowd of 18,059 marks Houston’s 12th sellout at Toyota Center in 2010-11.

The Rockets registered a 119-114 victory over the Spurs tonight, winning for a second time this season in overtime. Houston also snapped a four-game losing streak to San Antonio and avoided a season sweep. The last time the Rockets were swept the Spurs was back in 2005-06 (4-0).

San Antonio has now lost six consecutive games, which is the first time the Spurs have lost five or more in a row since Tim Duncan joined the team in back in 1997-98.

The Rockets have put all five starters in double-digit scoring six times this season. Houston has now gone 5-1 when that has occurred.

Houston netted 64 first-half points (.520, 26-50 FG) tonight. The Rockets have now hit the 60-point mark in a half 32 times in 2010-11.

The Rockets have now had at least two players with a double-double in the same game four times since Mar. 18. Houston had just four such outings in the first 69 games of the season.

Kevin Martin finished with a game-high 33 points (8-20 FG, 4-10 3FG, 13-14 FT) tonight, giving him 18 30-plus point outings in 2010-11 (Rockets record: 13-5). Martin has now netter 24 or more points in five of his last seven games against the Spurs.

Luis Scola, who topped Houston with 23 points (8-17 FG) and 10 rebounds at San Antonio (1/29/11), posted 21 points (7-18 FG, 7-7 FT), a game-high 14 rebounds and a team-best six assists tonight. Overall, it was Scola’s 17th double-double of the season.

Kyle Lowry had 14 points (5-13 FG), six boards and five assists tonight, extending his career-high double-digit scoring streak to 17 games (2/26/11-4/1/11).

Chuck Hayes recorded 10 points (5-12 FG), 12 rebounds and three steals tonight. Hayes extended his single-season career best in double-doubles to eight.

Chase Budinger, Courtney Lee and Patrick Patterson each had 12 points apiece tonight to put seven Rockets in double-figure scoring, which marked the fifth time in 2010-11 for that to occur.

Tony Parker, who leads all NBA guards in field goal percentage in 2010-11, had 31 points (.652, 15-23 FG) and six assists tonight. Overall, Parker notched his fourth 30-point game of the season.

Tim Duncan totaled 23 points (9-16 FG) and 13 rebounds tonight, marking his 35th career points-rebounds double-double against the Rockets.

Manu Ginobili added 23 points (7-17 FG, 2-6 3FG, 7-8 FT), seven rebounds, six assists and three steals tonight. It marks the first time that Ginobili has reached each of those statistical totals in a single game this season. He did have a previous game this season of 23 points, eight assists, seven boards and two steals at New Orleans (11/28/10).

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