The Houston Rockets acquired Ron Artest to win games like this.
Artest scored 10 of his 28 points in the second overtime and the Rockets
recovered from blowing a 16-point lead in the second half to beat the Utah Jazz
120-115 on Saturday night in Houston.
Yao Ming had 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who led 59-43
early in the third quarter, then went 3-for-18 from the field in the fourth to
fuel Utah's comeback.
Artest went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the second overtime to help
the Rockets beat Utah in their first meeting since the Jazz eliminated Houston
in the first round of last year's playoffs.
"I should have been attacking all night instead of waiting for double
overtime," Artest said. "Better late than never."
Ronnie Brewer scored 23 and Deron Williams had 14 points and 11 assists for
the Jazz, who played without their top three scorers and rebounders - Carlos
Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Paul Millsap - for the second straight game.
"We came back in the second half, but couldn't finish the game," said Andrei
Kirilenko, who scored 20. "Our defense was good and forced Houston to shoot more
jump shots in the second half."
Artest has been playing through a sprained right ankle and been listed as
"day to day" for weeks. The ankle was throbbing again on Saturday, and Artest
even told his wife that he was sitting out the game.
But the Rockets were missing Tracy McGrady, sidelined again with a sore left
knee, and Artest decided to play.
"I thought it would be smart if I took this game off, but Mac didn't play,"
Artest said. "You think about the team, you think about winning and how you can
help. That's what leads to, 'I'm playing."'
Good thing for Houston he did.
In other NBA games, it was: Hawks 129, Bulls 117; Pistons 87, Bucks 76; Trail
Blazers 102, Raptors 89; Magic 118, Timberwolves 94; Nets 114, Bobcats 103, OT;
Spurs 106, Grizzlies 103, 2OT; and Wizards 104, Thunder 95.
The game was tied at 96 at the end of the regulation, and at 101 after the
Artest went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the first minute of the
second extra period to give the Rockets a 105-101 lead. On Houston's next trip,
Luis Scola cut inside for a layup, was fouled by Kyrylo Fesenko and finished the
three-point play to put Houston up 108-102.
Kyle Korver sank a 3-pointer before Artest scored in the lane to put the
Rockets up 110-105. The Jazz got no closer than five after that, and the crowd
started chanting Artest's name before he made two free throws with 1:14 left to
stretch the Rockets' lead to 114-107.
"That's what we brought him to this team to do," said point guard Rafer
Alston, "to help close out games and to really be himself. Tonight, he was Ron."
The Jazz are dealing with their own injury issues - Boozer has been out since
November 21 with a strained left quad, Okur has missed three straight games with
back spasms and Millsap sat out the second straight game with a sprained left
With Utah's top three big men sidelined, Yao and the Rockets dominated
inside. They hit 12 of 19 shots and outrebounded the Jazz 13-6 in the first
quarter to lead 34-24.
In Atlanta, Joe Johnson scored a season-high 41 points to lead Atlanta.
Johnson finished only a point off his career high, while Josh Smith also set
a season high with 24, as the Hawks bettered their previous highest points tally
this season by 10 points.
Chicago's Ben Gordon scored 33 points in a losing cause.