Having missed the playoffs for the first time in four years, the Houston Rockets will have to take consolation in their fourth consecutive winning season.
The Rockets conclude 2009-10 on Wednesday night with a road game against the New Orleans Hornets, losers of 19 of 25.
Despite knowing its fate since April 2, Houston (42-39) has won five of seven this month. The latest victory, 117-107 over Sacramento on Monday night, clinched the franchise’s longest run of winning seasons since 1990-91 through 1996-97.
“I think it’s really important because our guys have played hard all year long,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs like every team has, but we haven’t quit. Our goal when we weren’t going to make the playoffs was let’s finish with a winning record and get as many wins as we can.”
The Rockets’ late surge has been due in large part to them averaging 109.6 points in April - 8.1 more than in their first 74 games. Their defense, however, has not improved, as they have given up 6.5 more points per game in the past seven contests.
“It was a great time tonight,” Martin said. “Hopefully, it will be even better in the future.”
After being acquired in a three-team deal Feb. 18, Martin couldn’t help Houston beat the Hornets three days later, scoring 13 off the bench in a 102-94 road loss.
The Rockets also fell 99-95 in New Orleans on Jan. 2, but have won four straight home matchups in the series, earning a 108-100 victory at Toyota Center on Dec. 29.
Unlike Houston, the Hornets (36-45) are laboring down the stretch, needing a 114-86 win over lowly Minnesota in their home finale Sunday night to end a five-game slide.
New Orleans is assured of finishing with its fewest victories since posting a franchise-low 18 in 2004-05. The Hornets will miss the postseason for the first time in three years, with injuries that kept All-Star point guard Chris Paul(notes) out 36 games a major factor.
Rookie guard Darren Collison(notes) has been a bright spot in Paul’s absence, averaging 19.2 points and 51.0 percent shooting in the past 32 games. He scored 26 points with nine assists and four steals Feb. 21.
Collison, though, has been unable to prevent New Orleans from dropping five in a row and 12 of 13 on the road.
“You can take the past and try to get better from it, but for the most part you want to leave all that (losing) in the past and just focus on getting ready for next year,” Collison said. “I think we’ve got a good team coming in next year.”