Kings set to host playoff-hungry Houston


Kings set to host playoff-hungry Houston

March 7, 2011

HOUSTON (32-32) vs.
KINGS (15-45)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- The Houston Rockets have surged closer to being in playoff position in the Western Conference, and they'll try to continue closing the gap with a road game against the lowly Sacramento Kings.

The Rockets look to move above .500 for the first time this season when they visit the Kings on Monday night looking for their third win in as many meetings this season.

Houston (32-32) has won six of seven to move into 11th place in the West, 2 12 games out of the last playoff spot.

"Good teams play their best basketball in the months of March and April," guard Kevin Martin said after scoring 20 points in a 112-95 win over Indiana on Saturday. "For us, where we're at in the standings, we need to have a great March, no doubt about that. Guys are committed to coming in and working hard every day, practicing for games. We'll just see where this takes us."

Chase Budinger finished with 18 points and six rebounds as he continued his post-All-Star break surge. Budinger has averaged 18.0 points - up from his season average of 8.8 - the last six games.

Most promising for the Rockets is how their defense has improved. They've held three of their last four opponents to 95 or fewer points, and limited the Pacers to 41.3 percent shooting while forcing 20 turnovers.

Prior to the last four games, the Rockets allowed teams to average 108.0 points over eight contests.

Houston is 19-4 when it gives up fewer than 100 points and has won 13 consecutive games in which it has held opponents below the mark.

"We're going to continue pushing and build on the success we had (Saturday)," swingman Courtney Lee said. "We're going to get back in the gym and practice and make sure that we are mentally sharp for our next games coming up."

The Rockets will try to take advantage of this favorable matchup before playing two of their next three against Phoenix - one of the teams they're chasing for a playoff berth - sandwiched around a matchup with NBA-leading San Antonio.

Sacramento (15-45) has lost two straight, four of five and 12 of 15. It's coming off a 109-102 overtime loss at Utah on Saturday.

REWIND: Kings force OT but lose to Jazz

The Kings shot 40.9 percent from the field went 19 of 30 from the free-throw line. DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and 18 rebounds while Francisco Garcia returned after missing 21 games with a calf injury and added 18 points.

"I was very proud of our guys, but going home with a loss we don't want to get use to that," coach Paul Westphal said. "We lost a lot of games this year. We lost a lot of games where we could have won them. We never want to accept that but at the same time we're pleased with the effort and I think our guys are growing."

Sacramento continues to be pleased with the production of new acquisition Marcus Thornton, who reached the 20-point mark for the third straight game in his first start this season. Obtained in the trade with New Orleans for Carl Landry, Thornton has averaged 21.2 points in five games with the Kings after averaging 7.8 with the Hornets.

The Rockets took the first meeting at Arco Arena 102-93 on Dec. 19. Houston has won three straight at Sacramento, where Martin has averaged 30.5 points in two visits since the Kings traded him to Houston on Feb. 18, 2010.

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

OAKLAND -- The defending champion Warriors started cracking in the hours before tipoff Tuesday night and broke apart when they usually come together.

The fourth quarter was a disaster area and it cost the Warriors, as the Houston Rockets wiped out a 13-point deficit and tagged them with a 122-121 loss before a stunned sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

So ends, as it should, the spurious notion of a rubber-stamp championship for the Warriors. A strain here and a tweak there and they found themselves on the painful end of the score.

The Warriors learned prior to the game that forward Andre Iguodala, their valuable Sixth Man, would be out nursing a strained back. They were hit with another injury, this one to Draymond Green, who was highly effective, late in the third quarter.

“He was our best player tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was the guy who was bringing the energy and the life.”

Green’s numbers -- 9 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists -- barely hint at his value in this game. Green and Iguodala are the primary defensive communicators, and Green held it down fairly well -- until he, too, was gone.

“Our communication wasn’t very good and we didn’t stick to the game plan; we gave them too many wide-open threes,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 first-quarter points but only 5 over the final three.

“We did a good job in the half-court of keeping them in front,” said Kevin Durant, who also scolded himself for committing eight turnovers. “But in transition we got cross-matched so many times and we just didn’t communicate well enough.”

Games aren’t always lost in the fourth, despite the frequent narrative, but this one most assuredly was. With Green in the locker room accompanied by ice, the Warriors were outscored 34-20 in the fourth quarter.

After shooting 45.8 percent through three quarters, the Rockets took it to 56 percent in the fourth, closing the game on a 13-5 run over the final 4:01.

The Warriors don’t yet know when Green and Iguodala will return, whether it’s as soon as Friday at New Orleans or a matter of weeks. Until they do, Kerr will have to resort to patching things together.

Problem is, aside from the scoring of Nick Young (23 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6-of-7 from deep) and Jordan Bell (8 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes), the bench did not distinguish itself.

That was particularly true on defense, which happen to be where Iguodala and Green make their greatest impact. The reserves accounted for 13 of the 25 fouls called on the Warriors.

“We’ve got to be better,” Durant said. “We’ve got to be better, and we’re looking forward to practice Wednesday.”

D'Antoni claps back at Draymond, Warriors after Rockets' 122-121 win

D'Antoni claps back at Draymond, Warriors after Rockets' 122-121 win

Draymond Green usually gets the last word.

Not this time.

"Somebody said we don't take it seriously on defense. Well obviously they don't take it seriously either," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said after the Rockets knocked off the Warriors 122-121 on Tuesday night., according to Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Phil Barber.

The jab stems from Green's comments after practice on Monday.

"You should believe that. I'm turning over a new leaf. Number 1 -- they want it to be a shootout, which is fine. But we're gonna play some defense. We score pretty well, but we're a damn good defensive team, too. So we're gonna play some defense.

"I don't know how serious they take defense with that comment, but I know they added some good defensive players," Green told reporters Monday.

Green won't get his next shot at D'Antoni and the Rockets until January 4 in Houston.