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Friday January 27, 2012 11:32 PM

Rockets Romp To Win Over Wizards

Budinger's big night off the bench keys Houston to 103-76 victory

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - The Rockets were in desperate need of a spark. With Kevin Martin (day-to-day with plantar fasciitis) out due to injury and the team looking listless against the lowly Wizards, Houston had to have someone step up in order to ignite its potent but suddenly sputtering attack.

But Chase Budinger decided to do much more than that. Heeding the call from his team, he provided the fuse, the lighter fluid and a box full of matches, allowing the Rockets to blow Washington right out of the building on their way to a 103-76 victory.

Budinger was simply brilliant Friday night, scoring 21 points and grabbing 8 rebounds during 25 minutes of play. What’s more, he provided dynamic defense, powerful finishing in transition and fantastic floor spacing by hitting 4 of his 6 3-point attempts; something made all the more vital since the rest of his teammates combined to go 1-of-9 from downtown.

His was an eye-opening performance for sure, especially in light of the fact that this was his first in-game action since Houston’s January 19 contest against New Orleans. That sort of inactivity can be difficult for any player to handle, with the mental strain frequently posing a unique and imposing hurdle to clear. But Budinger rose to the occasion when his team needed him most, earning both extreme praise and respect from his head coach after the game.

“I’m very impressed by that young man. He busted his hump,” said Kevin McHale. “I know when he doesn’t play he’s very upset but he worked at his game and it’s funny how when you keep your head down and work really hard and stay professional that when your time comes around it pays off for you – and it did. Chase made shots for us tonight and played wonderful defense; moved his feet really well, rebounded the ball and just played really, really well. That has nothing to do with anybody but himself and making himself ready and that’s really impressive. Chase is what professionalism is all about.”

Budinger certainly picked a good time to bust out as the Rockets rather uncharacteristically struggled to find their feet on offense during the first half. His 11 points off the bench through the first two quarters helped Houston survive that sloppy stretch as the game frequently devolved into a chaotic, disheveled mess; a style of play, appropriately enough, that seemed right up the Wizards’ alley. As a result, Washington managed to hang around and keep things close into the third quarter, thanks largely to the one-man fastbreak known as John Wall.

But mid-way through the third period with Houston clinging to a 57-55 lead, the Rockets happened upon one of Washington’s myriad pressure points and, from that point on, the Wizards were rendered powerless to fight back. The onslaught began with three straight post possessions for Luis Scola, who took Wizards’ rookie Jan Vesely to school with his dizzying array of moves down low. By the time he was done, Houston had reeled off six consecutive points in less than a minute; four coming from Scola himself and the final two courtesy of a dish from the hirsute Argentinean that led to a Chandler Parsons layup.

And unlike what transpired during the second half of Wednesday night’s disappointing defeat at the hands of Milwaukee, this time Houston’s players showed no mercy. Scola's sequence of domination triggered an astounding 36-7 Rockets run that allowed the club ample time to rest its starters in the fourth quarter; something that could prove key given the fact Friday night’s contest marked the start of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch for Houston.

“I think we can feel pretty good about this game after the game we had two days ago,” said Scola, who finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds in a tidy 23 minutes of work. “This is the way we've got to play.

“We've got a lot of players who can play. We've got some players who are not playing and we've got some players who are really professional, too. They wait for their chance, they work hard and they wait for an opportunity to play to help the team and to prove that they belong to the team and that they belong to the rotation. Today, they showed it. I am very happy for them and I am very proud of them. It's a good feeling when some very important player like Kevin (Martin) doesn't play, you're still playing hard and you're still playing well and you can still win.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(on Budinger): He played well. I told him, in our league a lot of times things just happen and he stayed ready and he’s a professional, I tell you what. I’m very impressed by that young man. He busted his hump.

Do I know he was upset he didn’t play? Of course. But look, those guys play 40 minutes and they get mad when I take them out, you know what I mean? So I know when he doesn’t play he’s very upset but he worked at his game and it’s funny how when you keep your head down and work really hard and stay professional that when your time comes around it pays off for you – and it did. Chase made shots for us tonight and played wonderful defense; moved his feet really well, rebounded the ball and just played really, really well. That has nothing to do with anybody but himself and making himself ready and that’s really impressive. Chase is what professionalism is all about.

(will he get more opportunities?): Yeah, of course. Any time you play like that and stay ready like that it does warrant more time. He did what he is supposed to do and I’m proud of him. That’s really not easy and it’s really not easy when you’re a young player like Chase is.

(on the turning point): We started to punch it in to Luis and I thought the game really changed on the shoulders of Luis Scola. He got down there in the post, started going to work. Every game as a coach you’re trying to find one or two things you can go to that you can repeat and run over and over again and make them make adjustments and tonight it was Luis and I thought the entire game changed on Luis’s shoulders.

(On the rotation of players) “You can't play everybody. Trying to play everybody if you have 18 or 20 minutes, you are better off getting into letting these guys get into a rhythm rather than giving these guys 6 (minutes) and these guys 9 (minutes). Then again, when his (Budinger) number was called, he was ready. He did a fantastic job.”

CHASE BUDINGER

(on how hard it was to be patient while not playing?): You just have to be a professional in this circumstance and be ready for an opportunity like I got tonight.

It’s a lot (easier said than done). During the games I didn’t play, you just have to get the extra work in and just be prepared for the opportunity.

I was just trying to be more active out there; move around, get on the offensive glass – just be involved more. That was one thing that coach said I was lacking was I wasn’t being involved as much, so that’s what I tried to do tonight.

(what were you telling yourself while not playing?):  Just come in here, work hard, get extra shots up, extra conditioning and your time will come. That’s what everybody was saying: you just have to wait for the opportunity.

LUIS SCOLA

(On the win) “It was a good game for us. We struggled a little bit early in the game. We played harder in the second half and we got the lead. I think we can feel pretty good about this game after the game we had two days ago. This is the way we've got to play and we got another here tomorrow.”

(On the Rockets playing without Kevin Martin) “We've got a lot of players who can play. We've got some players who are not playing and we've got some players who are really professional too. They wait for their chance. They work hard and they wait for an opportunity to play to help the team and to prove that they belong to the team and that they belong to the rotation. Today, they showed it. I am very happy for them and I am very proud of them. It's a good feeling when some very important player like Kevin (Martin) doesn't play, you're still playing hard and you're still playing well and you can still win.”

JORDAN HILL

(On the Rockets playing better in the second half) “In the first half we definitely weren't shooting the ball well and defensively we were not on our A-game. In the second half, we came into the locker room and we talked, we've got to go out there and compete. We came out there and defended well and we did what we had to do to get the win.”

(On the Rockets playing without Kevin Martin) “Unfortunately, Kevin was out and he is one of the top scorers. We had to do what we had to do without him. Everybody stepped up, Chase (Budinger) stepped up. The bench played well. It was definitely a good win for us and we just have to keep it going.”

WASHINGTON WIZARDS COACH RANDY WITTMAN

(On first half/second halt turnaround) “It was a combination of things, we have to get in better shape. We get tired and we lose our concentration. We throw the ball away. We got them to call the first time out in the third quarter. Then the score was 57-55, a two-point game. I don’t know how many turnovers we had. it seemed like a turnover almost every possession. There are some discipline problems in running, for thirty minutes, we played hard, smart and for the most part we got after it. The bad thing about it is that it’s a 48 minute game. We have to value the ball better.”

(On what Houston did different in the second half) “They turned up their pressure, we were trying to throw cross-court passes, and you can’t even get away with that in high school. We want to be up-temp, were athletic, and we want to run, but you have to take care of the ball. Houston had something to do with that.”

RASHARD LEWIS

(On the game) ”We played great in the first half, but then in the third quarter with about five minutes left, we started to turn the ball over. It seemed like every time we had it, we turned it over and let them get easy baskets. That’s what really hurt us.”

JOHN WALL

(On the game) “In the second half we were close, and then turned the ball over consistently, they got way too many points off of our turnovers. We gave them (Rockets) too many easy shots and we let (Luis) Scola do whatever he wanted. .”

(On the loss) “That’s tough, but in the NBA when you miss a lot of shots, it gets very ugly.”

NOTES

Houston recorded its largest margin of victory this season with a 103-76 (+27) triumph over Washington tonight. The previous high was a 105-85 (+20) win vs. San Antonio (12/29/11).

The Rockets recorded a season-best 34 third-quarter points tonight, surpassing their previous high of 33 in the last outing at Washington (1/16/12). Houston outscored the Wizards, 34-21, in the third stanza tonight, which was similar to the last game when the Rockets outscored the Wizards, 33-21, in the third to take control of a 114-106 win at Washington.

Houston set its season best in steals with 12, while Washington made an opponent season-high 13 thefts tonight. Houston’s previous high was 11 (done three times), while the old opponent high was 12 by the Clippers at Los Angeles (1/4/12).

The Rockets forced an opponent season-high 24 turnovers tonight. The previous high was 20 done twice before, last by the Timberwolves at Minnesota (1/23/12).

Houston outrebounded Washington by a 55-44 (+11) count tonight. The Rockets now own six 50-plus rebounding games this season (Rockets record: 5-1).

The Rockets have now built double-digit leads in each of the last 12 games (1/7/12-1/27/12), which stands as Houston’s longest run since a 20-game streak back in 2007-08 (2/2/08-3/16/08).

Chase Budinger netted a season-high 21 points (8-14 FG, 4-8 3FG) to go with a season-best eight rebounds. Budinger’s previous season high in scoring was 18 points (7-16 FG) vs. Portland (1/14/12). Overall, Budinger has registered eight career 20-point games.

Luis Scola had 19 points (8-13 FG) and eight rebounds tonight. Scola has now reached double-figure scoring in seven straight games.

Jordan Hill notched 10 points (4-11 FG) and 10 rebounds off the bench tonight. It marked his third double-double of 2011-12, surpassing the two total he had over his first two seasons (2009-11).

Samuel Dalembert recorded 11 points (5-11 FG) and three blocks tonight. Dalembert also had 20 points (9-11 FG), seven rebounds and three blocks in the last outing at Washington (1/16/12).

Goran Dragic also had nine points (4-4 FT), a game-high seven assists and six rebounds tonight, helping the Rockets reserves net 52 total points, 34 boards and nine assists.

John Wall led the Wizards with 17 points (6-13 FG), eight rebounds and six assists tonight. He had a triple-double of 19 points (8-16 FG), 13 assists, 10 boards and six steals last year at Washington (11/10/10). Wall also scored a career-high 38 points (13-22 FG, 12-16 FT) to go with eight assists, six rebounds and four steals in the first meeting this season at Washington (1/16/12).

JaVale McGee, who leads the NBA in blocks per game, swatted away four Houston shots tonight and had a game-high 11 rebounds. McGee also had three blocks in the last meeting with the Rockets at Washington (1/16/12).

Jan Vesely matched his season-high six rebounds and had three steals tonight. He also had a season high six boards in two previous outings, including six in the last game vs. Charlotte (1/25/12).

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