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Wednesday December 8, 2010 0:28 AM

Rockets Keep Rolling At Home

Scola, Lowry lead Rockets to 4th straight home win, 97-83 over Pistons

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Slowly but surely, the Rockets are in the process of transforming an early season weakness into an area of strength.

Utilizing a powerful finishing kick which has become more the norm than the exception of late, the Rockets raced past Detroit 97-83 Tuesday night at Toyota Center, where Houston has now won its past four games.

The Rockets received a dominant performance from their starting five, which was responsible for all but 9 of Houston’s 97 points on the night. Not surprisingly, then, it was that unit – with a significant assist from Jared Jeffries – which allowed the Rockets to run away and hide, turning a tight game into a laugher late as Houston used a 15-2 fourth quarter run to put the Pistons away.

It was the sort of crunch time performance which was sorely missed earlier in the season, but one which is now being seen with far more regularity as the Rockets have started to uncover and execute the formula necessary for their own late-game success.

“I think we’re playing better overall and playing with a lot more confidence,” said Luis Scola after the game. “We feel better closing the games. At the beginning of the season, this game we would have lost it. We would have been up by 12 or 13, they would have come back and we would have lost it. But we were able to close it tonight.

“We kind of shook off all (the problems) we were having at the beginning of the season and we are closing the game better. That is a big reason why we are winning more games.”

A large part of the solution Tuesday night was the unstoppable 2-man game being expertly run by Scola and Kyle Lowry. The prolific pair were simply masterful start to finish, getting to their spots, draining shots and making plays at both ends of the floor.

“(Detroit) didn’t really have an answer for it as long as we were executing,” explained Rockets head coach Rick Adelman. “Luis was shooting the ball so well – they’d lay off him and he’d knock down the 17-footers.

“A lot of it is Kyle finding the right spot and getting into the middle and looking for the right people. You have to read the defense and you have to understand the other team is going to try to take things away and you’ve got to be instinctive on the court and realize what’s happening and take advantage of it.”

The box score numbers from Houston’s dynamic duo practically leap off the page. Scola exploded for 35 points and 12 rebounds, while Lowry stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, 12 assists and 6 steals. Lowry’s assists and steals totals tied his career highs in those categories, as did the number of triples (4) he drained on the night.

That last number is particularly eye-opening. A career 27 percent shooter from 3, Lowry has now connected on 11 of his last 19 attempts from downtown. And though he can’t be expected to keep up that scintillating pace, there’s no denying the reality that a consistent 3-point stroke would add a potent new dimension to Lowry’s already dynamic game.

“(Opposing defense) rotate off him a lot, so if he can knock them down it makes it very difficult for them,” said Adelman. “He’s been playing at such a high level. He was great in the last 6 minutes, just distributing the ball and making the right play and making the simple plays.”

His ability to close out quarters wasn’t merely relegated to the final frame, either. After a sloppy and rather sleepy start to the game, Lowry helped the Rockets seize control of the proceedings near the mid-way point of the second quarter as the starters came back in and immediately reeled off 16 straight points on their way to carrying Houston to a 20-2 run to end the first half.

The Rockets held Detroit without a field goal for the final 6:26 of the period, during a stretch highlighted by Shane Battier’s spectacular chase-down block of Richard Hamilton’s fastbreak layup attempt – a play which proved to be a major turning point in the game as it led to Kevin Martin getting fouled on the other end of the floor, and Hamilton getting ejected after being assessed a double-technical for arguing that he’d been fouled by Battier. The end result: 4 free throws for Martin (as part of a night which saw him take 15 in all), all of which hit nothing but net, and a 9-point Houston lead heading into halftime.

“I think it was just a total team effort tonight,” said Martin, who finished with 21 points, marking the first time this season the Rockets have had three starters net 20 or more points in the same game. “Sometimes the bench has our back and tonight we had their back. It works that way sometimes.

“Kyle did a good job of finding all the players in transition and getting us going early. He ran the floor and was the floor general tonight.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

(On Kyle’s recent 3-point shooting): They rotate off him a lot, so if he can knock them down it makes it very difficult for (opposing defenses). He’s been playing at such a high level. He was great in the last 6 minutes, just distributing the ball and making the right play and making the simple plays.

(Kyle and Luis working 2-man game): ( Detroit) didn’t really have an answer for it as long as we were executing. Luis was shooting the ball so well – they’d lay off him and he’d knock down the 17-footers. I just liked the way we played and the way we approach the last 6 minutes.

A lot of it is Kyle finding the right spot and getting into the middle and looking for the right people. You have to read the defense and you have to understand the other team is going to try to take things away and you’ve got to be instinctive on the court and realize what’s happening and take advantage of it.

(On the game) “It was just a good win to get. These are the types of games we need to win. This month we play a lot of teams in the same boat that we are, you’ve got to go out and you’ve got to get these wins at home. I thought the last 6 or 7 minutes of the 4th quarter we were really active defensively and executed offensively, too. Those are the things you have to do.”

(On Jared Jeffries) “In the first half, I put him in the last few minutes of the game. The way they (Pistons) were playing, they had Tracy (McGrady) and (Tayshaun) Prince out there at the three and four. Jared is long and he’s quick. He’s one of our best defenders and it was the type of team that he could really defend and he could move his feet. He made a huge difference. You look at the stat sheet and there are zeros there but he had an impact in that game. Him and Courtney (Lee) were terrific the last six minutes, defensively. That’s why I went with him. I decided I was going to leave Luis (Scola) alone and bring him back for Brad (Miller) and leave Jared out there and just try to defend their perimeter people.”

KYLE LOWRY

(feel more comfortable closing out games?): I think so. I think we know what we want to do and I think we know how to finish games. Offensively, I think we have something we can go to with me just needing to make plays.

We’re picking up our energy and that’s what good teams (do). Earlier in the season teams picked up their energy and we didn’t know how to respond.

(on his 3-point shooting): I’ve worked on my game. You only get better at shooting 3s and shooting game-shots by shooting them in games. Lately I’ve been shooting those shots in games and it comes with confidence, comes with the minutes and comes with the reps. Once you get the minutes, the reps and the timing, you start making shots.

(On the win) “It’s just a matter of time with guys getting the hang of each other and getting more confident in each other and playing off of each other. I think that lately we’ve been sharing the ball and it’s been balanced scoring pretty much. “

(On McGrady’s return) “He is a wily veteran. He gave this organization some great years and he came back and played pretty well tonight but we went out there and we wanted to win the game no matter what happened. We went out there and played aggressive. We knew Tracy was going to come back aggressive and he wanted to get a win but we did some things to try to stop him from getting that and we got the win.”

LUIS SCOLA

(On the Rockets 4th quarter play) “We did a lot better. We struggled early in the season closing games and later on we were able to play harder and better when the game was on the line in the 4th quarter. We kind of shook off all (the problems) we were having at the beginning of the season and we are closing the game better. That is a big reason why we are winning more games.”

(On his offensive play) “I was feeling pretty good today. I was hitting my shots early, which always helps. I missed a lot of lay-ups at the beginning of the game and that was kind of disappointing for me but in the second half I was able to be effective again and I took a lot of shots. I am happy with my game overall today.”

I think we’re playing better overall and playing with a lot more confidence. Especially I think we are more secure closing the games. We feel better closing the games. At the beginning of the season, this game we would have lost it. We would have been up by 12 or 13, they would have come back and we would have lost it. But we were able to close it tonight.

(on playing with Kyle): He’s been playing great and playing with an amazing amount of confidence. He’s hitting jumpers which I think is helping him a lot. He’s stepped up big time.

KEVIN MARTIN

(On the key to the win) “I think it was just a total team effort tonight. Sometimes the bench has our back and tonight we had their back. It works that way sometimes. We played the game plan right. We just wanted to stop them (Pistons) from hitting 3’s and staying off the line and we did that.”

(On the play of Kyle Lowry) “My teammates, Kyle (Lowry), did a good job of finding all the players in transition and getting us going earlier. He (Lowry) ran the floor and he was the floor general tonight and he ran it well.”

DETROIT PISTONS HEAD COACH JOHN KUESTER

(On the game) “They (Rockets) got a number of calls that put them on the free throw line a lot. On the road you must shore up things like that. I'm amazed Kevin Martin got 15 free throws.

(On the Pistons play) “We have to work through things and the mental toughness must come through. We had some guys step up their games. Rip ( Hamilton) knows what he has to do and he must adjust his game to the whistle. We didn't do a good job of keeping Houston away from the basket. We turned the ball over too often in the second quarter.”

TRACY McGRADY

(On coming back to Houston) “It really wasn't as strange as I thought it would be. It is always good to come back and be appreciated for what you did. I'm never surprised when I come back. You never know what to expect. Cheers or boos or whatever.”

(On his play tonight) “I felt good physically and I thought I would have a good game. I'm accepting my role on this team on the point and I really enjoy trying to make my team better.”

TAYSHAUN PRINCE

(On the teams play) “Our second group came in and did a good job in the second quarter and once our starters came back, we gave momentum back to Houston. In the second quarter, Kyle (Lowry) controlled the game and that’s just the way things went. Scola (Luis) was hitting his shots all game long. The second quarter is what really killed us.”

BEN WALLACE

(On the game) “ Houston made plays and got stops and hit big baskets. They were the more aggressive team. Scola (Luis) had a good night. He got into a good rhythm and got his team over the hump when they needed it.”

NOTES

Houston held Detroit to an opponent season low in points in a 97-83 victory tonight, giving the Rockets five straight home wins over the Pistons.

The Rockets were 7-of-14 (.500) from beyond the arc tonight, which was the fourth time Houston has hit the .500 mark from 3-point range this season. All four occasions have come in the last eight games, including a season best .696 (16-23 3FG) at Memphis (12/3/10).

Houston finished with an even 20 assists tonight. The Rockets have now dished out at least 20 assists in a season-best 10 consecutive games (11/19/10-12/7/10). It stands as the longest such streak for Houston since handing out at least 20 helpers in 11 straight contests in 2009-10 (12/29/09-1/22/10).

The trio of Luis Scola (35), Kyle Lowry (22) and Kevin Martin (21) combined for 78 points tonight, marking the first time this season the Rockets have had three starters net 20 or more points in the same game. Houston had three starters net 20-plus points in the same contest seven times in 2009-10.

Luis Scola posted 35 points (16-25 FG, 3-4 FT) and 12 rebounds tonight, marking his second 30-point game of the season and the fifth of his career. Overall, it was his fifth double-double on the 2010-11 and the 75th of his career.

Kyle Lowry scored 22 points (7-13 FG, 4-5 FT) tonight, as well as matching his career highs in 3-pointers made (4-6 3FG), assists (12) and steals (6). He originally set his career best with six steals vs. Phoenix (11/22/10) and four treys (4-5 3FG) at Memphis (12/3/10). Lowry, who entered this season with just four career double-doubles, has already notched four double-doubles in 2010-11.

Kevin Martin, who scored 22 points behind a 14-of-15 performance from the stripe, made 43 consecutive free throw attempts (11/28/10-12/7/10) prior to his first miss tonight. Martin is the only Rockets player since 1997-98 to make at least 40 free throws in a row. The next closest is Luis Scola’s run of 39 straight makes (2/20/10-3/9/10). Martin’s streak currently stands tied for the second longest in the NBA this season (46 by Kevin Love and 43 by Danilo Gallinari).

Shane Battier, who played through a bout with a stomach virus, added another block tonight to give him at least one blocked shot in each of his last 16 games (11/7/10-12/7/10). It matches his career best of a block in 16 straight outings (1/31/03-3/5/03).

Rodney Stuckey, who was the only Detroit player in double-figure scoring through three quarters, finished with a team-high 18 points (6-14 FG, 5-5 FT) and five assists.

Tracy McGrady, who averaged 22.7 points over his six seasons with the Rockets (2004-10), made his return to Toyota Center with 11 points (3-6 FG, 4-4 FT), three boards and three assists. He helped the Pistons bench outscore the Rockets reserves by a 41-9 margin tonight.

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