Ariza carries Rockets to 95-90 win over Thunder
HOUSTON (AP) Forget coach Rick Adelman bragging about his team’s resilience. The Houston Rockets are ready for a rest.
Trevor Ariza scored 31 points and hit five 3-pointers, and the Rockets closed an exhausting run of four games in five days with a 95-90 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.
The Rockets nearly blew a 17-point lead.
“I think people just keep talking about being surprised that this team is competing, and that’s what you have to do in this league if you want to win, and that’s one good thing about our team is that we compete,” Adelman said.
“They might have gotten a little tired but we had to get through this game and we got the win. We made some big hustle plays in the last two and a half, three minutes, and that was the difference.”
The Rockets flew home from Dallas, where they beat the Mavericks 116-108 in overtime on Friday night, to face the Thunder. They built a 58-41 lead early in the third quarter and then almost ran out of gas.
“It was tough down the stretch,” Ariza said. “It’s what we try to do. Tonight we were successful. The night before we were successful, so we just have to build from there.”
It was Houston’s 13th straight victory and 10th in a row at home against the Thunder.
The Thunder cut Houston’s lead to 74-65 at the end of the third quarter and nipped at the Rockets’ heels the rest of the game.
They pulled within one point, 82-81, on a pair of free throws by Russell Westbrook with 5:20 to play, but the Rockets never lost the lead.
Kevin Durant, the Thunder’s leading scorer, hit only three of his first 12 shots and finished with 13 points. Jeff Green led Oklahoma City with 21 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
“I liked the way we battled back,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I am very proud of the effort and the way this team plays. We dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get out. We got some stops in the fourth quarter but the offensive rebounds killed us.”
Luis Scola added 16 points for the Rockets, and Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes each added 13.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden scored 15 each for the Thunder.
“It was a physical game and very competitive,” Green said. “Houston played great and they are a great team that works very hard. We got a spark off the bench but it wasn’t enough. We have to do it as a team and continue to play together.”
The Rockets used a 19-6 run to close the second quarter for a 50-40 lead at the break.
Houston hasn’t lost to the Thunder since April 4, 2006, when the team was based in Seattle.
NOTES: Carl Landry sat out the game after breaking several teeth in a collision with Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki on Friday night. … Houston’s 116-108 overtime victory at Dallas was the sixth time this season the Rockets have come back from deficits of 10 or more points to win. … Durant had a season low 12 points at Dallas on Wednesday, snapping a nine-game string of scoring 25 or more points. He rebounded Friday against Detroit with 27 points. … Oklahoma City is 11-0 when scoring more than 100 points and 2-11 when allowing 100. … Chase Budinger left the game early in the second quarter with a right ankle sprain.
Updated December 20, 2009