March 7, 2011
HOUSTON (32-32) vs.
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.