Martin scores 21 to lead Rockets past Spurs
By CHRIS DUNCAN, AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Jordan Hill wants to make an impression every minute he’s on the floor for the Houston Rockets.
Backing up Yao Ming on Thursday night, Hill scored 16 points to help the Rockets beat San Antonio 90-87 in the Spurs’ preseason opener.
Hill played almost 26 minutes in place of Brad Miller, who sat out with a sprained ankle. The Rockets acquired the 6-foot-10 Hill from New York in February in the Tracy McGrady trade.
“Now it’s time for me to go out there and give it all I’ve got,” Hill said. “I’m a young guy. I can run the floor, I’ve got a lot of energy, so I might as well just put it to use.”
Kevin Martin scored 21 points to lead Houston. Yao scored five points on a 2-for-8 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots in 13 minutes. The Rockets are strictly limiting Yao’s playing time as he comes back from foot surgery that sidelined him last season.
Yao is happy with his progress so far, and felt more productive than he was in Tuesday’s 97-88 loss to Orlando.
“I just tried to be a little more active than the first game,” Yao said. “I tested myself in the first game, and I tried to do a little bit more.”
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan started for the Spurs, but none of their “Big Three” played more than 17 minutes. Parker scored 10 points, Duncan grabbed seven rebounds and Ginobili had five assists.
DeJuan Blair led the Spurs with 12 points. The 6-7 Blair was drafted by the Spurs in 2009 and was facing Yao for the first time. The 7-6 Yao blocked two of Blair’s shots in the third quarter.
“He’s a big dude, that’s all I can say,” Blair said. “When I saw him, I thought, ‘Oh, my Lord!’ He’s huge.”
Aaron Brooks scored 14 and Chuck Hayes pulled down 10 rebounds for Houston.
The Rockets play two preseason games in Houston this weekend, then embark on a weeklong tour of China, where they’ll play New Jersey twice. Martin said the Rockets need to focus on playing at a faster pace in the games ahead.
“Our strength last year was pushing the ball and getting some easy buckets,” Martin said. “We have to work the ball around so everybody is satisfied.”
The Rockets led by nine after three quarters, and starters Brooks, Martin and Shane Battier were still on the floor as the fourth quarter began. By then, all five San Antonio starters were done for the night.
Houston coach Rick Adelman pulled the last of his starters with 8:51 left and the Rockets leading 80-74. The reserves nearly blew a 10-point lead in the last five minutes.
San Antonio cut the deficit to three, before Courtney Lee’s driving layup with 2:06 left put Houston ahead 88-83. Gary Neal drove for a layup with a minute left, and James Anderson finished a fast break with another layup to pull the Spurs within 88-87.
Lee sank two free throws with 2 seconds left, and Curtis Jerrells missed a half-court shot at the buzzer.
Yao played the first six minutes of the game, grabbed three rebounds and converted a three-point play. He blocked a layup try by Richard Jefferson, but let Duncan slide by him for an easy basket about a minute later.
Duncan said Yao hasn’t lost his skills during his recovery.
“I thought he looked pretty good,” Duncan said. “He’s still working himself into shape, but he still has the touch. The basketball stuff will come with time.”
Hill replaced Yao with 5:51 left in the first quarter. Ginobili and Duncan played nine minutes apiece in the first quarter, and helped the Spurs build a 23-16 lead. Parker played the entire quarter and scored eight points with four assists.
Hill hit five of his first seven shots and the Rockets took a 46-44 lead on his hook shot with 1:49 left in the first half. Hill led all scorers with 14 points at the break.
“I know that I did make some mistakes out there,” Hill said. “Luckily, it’s the preseason, and I can look back at the tape and figure out what I can do the next time.”
Yao and the rest of Houston’s starters returned for the third quarter. Parker was also on the floor and swished a mid-range jumper to break a 50-all halftime tie.
Martin scored 14 points in the third quarter to carry Houston to a 77-68 lead.
NOTES: Brazilian Tiago Splitter, the Spurs’ biggest offseason acquisition, sat out with a strained calf muscle. Coach Gregg Popovich expects the 6-foot-11 Splitter to return to action in about a week. … The Rockets waived C Jordan Eglseder and F Patrick Sullivan.