The Houston Rockets think they’re finally putting things together after an undefeated three-game road trip. They’ll try to carry that success home as they go for their season-high fourth straight win Wednesday night against the struggling Indiana Pacers.
Houston (10-5) entered the season with championship aspirations following the offseason acquisition of Ron Artest, but struggled to play consistently in the season’s first three weeks. After opening 3-0, the Rockets lost five of nine.
Since a particularly disheartening home loss to rival Dallas, however, Houston has won three straight on the road, capping the trip with a 107-98 win over Miami on Monday night.
“It was another solid win for us,” second-year Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “I thought offensively we were pretty good tonight, so it’s a great trip.”
Adelman’s club shot just 42.3 percent in its first 12 games before shooting 47.2 percent in its last three.
Yao Ming has been integral to the team’s efficiency lately. After missing the loss to Dallas with a sore left foot, the 7-foot-6 All-Star has connected on 24 of 39 shots (61.5 percent) during the three-game win streak.
“On this trip, we learned something,” Yao told the Rockets’ official Web site after going 9-for-15 against the Heat. “We found which way we are going to play basketball. We are going to use the advantage we have on the team.
“For the first 10 games, we played without team discipline. We passed the ball to the weak side very well on this trip. We need to keep doing that the rest of the season.”
While Yao and the Rockets are hoping to build on their recent success, the Pacers (5-8) are trying to snap a season-high three-game skid. Indiana has lost five of six overall, including the first two games of a three-game road trip despite having had the lead in the fourth quarter of both contests.
The Pacers led by as many as 13 and had a seven-point cushion with 3:40 left before falling 109-106 to Dallas on Tuesday night. They’ve led at halftime in nine of 13 games, but are at the bottom of the Central Division with only five victories.
“It’s very frustrating,” forward Danny Granger said. “It’s a habit we’re going to have to learn to break, or we’re going to be very disappointed this year. We just can’t seem to close teams out. Can’t tell you why. I don’t know.”
After such a disappointing defeat, the Pacers are glad to have a chance to bounce back one day later in Houston.
“That’s the only good thing you can say right now—we’ve got another game tomorrow we’ve got to play,” guard Marquis Daniels said. “We’ve just got to come in and learn to finish out games.”
The Pacers lost both their games against the Rockets last season, including a 117-99 rout at the Toyota Center on March 5, their third straight loss in Houston.
Artest is just 11-for-36 (30.6 percent) from the field in two games against the Pacers since his acrimonious split from the team in January 2006. He spent four seasons with Indiana, but his tenure was marred by his role in the brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills in November 2004 and his trade demand the following season.