In a conference filled with offensive juggernauts, the Houston Rockets have been taking them all down lately with solid defense.
Houston will try to knock off a top Western Conference team for the fourth straight game as it looks to spoil what has been a rousing homestand for the Sacramento Kings.
The Rockets are looking to go 4-for-4 in a run of games against some of the best clubs in the West, and some of the highest-scoring in the league.
Beating a Dallas team missing Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley last Sunday to open this stretch wasn’t too surprising, but Houston holding the Mavericks to a season-low 69 points was impressive. Dallas is second in the league with 102.6 points per game.
Two nights later, the Rockets opened a four-game road trip with a 97-95 victory over Northwest Division-leading Seattle. Houston set a franchise record by limiting the SuperSonics to six points in the third quarter.
The defense Houston played in the fourth quarter Friday was nearly as good. The Rockets held Phoenix, averaging an NBA-high 110.6 points, to 17 on 6-of-26 shooting in that period to win 127-107.
“This is a big win for us,” said Tracy McGrady, who scored 38 points. “This is a high-powered offense. And for us to hold them to 17 points in the fourth quarter shows how good a defensive team we can be.”
Yao Ming added 27 points and a career-high 22 rebounds while helping Houston prevent Phoenix from taking over the best record in the West.
“If we’re going to win a championship, we’ve got to beat the best to give us confidence going into the end of the season,” Rockets guard Mike James said. “And Phoenix was the best in the West.”
Now the Rockets face the NBA’s third-highest scoring team when they visit Arco Arena, where they have lost 11 straight since March 28, 1999.
The Kings, averaging 102.6 points, opened a five-game homestand by beating defending NBA champion Detroit 100-85 last Sunday in their first game at Arco since dealing Chris Webber to Philadelphia. The last two victories have come thanks to late heroics from the team’s new leader following Webber’s departure.
Mike Bibby hit a 3-pointer as time expired to give Sacramento an 85-82 victory over Memphis on Tuesday. Three nights later, Bibby’s 22-footer with four-tenths of a second to play gave the Kings a 113-112 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bibby had 28 points and 12 assists Friday. He’s averaging 24.2 points and 8.0 assists in nine games since the Webber trade.
“We have so many good players on this team, but you need to have that general, you need to have that great point guard, and that’s what Mike is,” Kings guard Cuttino Mobley said.
The Kings will be without one of their better players for at least one month after center Brad Miller broke his left leg during a light shooting drill Saturday. The two-time All-Star missed Sacramento’s last six games with a bruised calf and was expected to return for Sunday’s game. But in the latest bizarre injury in a long franchise history for the Kings, Miller broke his left fibula during a non-contact drill.