MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE (TICKER) —The Houston Rockets would not let poor free-throw shooting hurt them for the second straight day.
Houston’s longest losing streak of the season was extended with a 100-98 setback at Chicago on Sunday. The Rockets could have ended their funk one day early if they had success at the line, where they missed 12 free throws.
Houston redeemed itself Monday, making its final 15 foul shots to help hold off a determined Memphis team.
“Tonight was a big game for us because we’ve been on the sneid, losing four games in a row,” Francis said. “We’ve been losing to teams that we feel we’ve had a good chance of beating. We wanted to come in and set the tone.”
The Rockets never trailed in the fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies pulled within 80-79 with 5:29 remaining after Pau Gasol scored four straight points.
Houston’s James Posey and Taylor answered with consecutive three-point plays for an 86-79 cushion with 4:02 to go.
Gasol scored three points during a 7-2 spurt as Memphis climbed within 90-88 on rookie Gordan Giricek’s long jumper at the 1:10 mark.
Francis answered with a jumper and buried to free throws to extend the lead for Houston, which sealed the win by making 8-of-8 foul shots in the final 30 seconds.
“We had talked about finding a way to win and got great contributions off the bench,” Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. “Posey made some big defensive plays and we made our free throws down the stretch.”
“It’s tough to win on the road against any team,” Francis said. “I think we’re one of the teams that really knows that it’s hard to win in this league. We just want to keep going forward.”
Houston got 32 points from its bench while Memphis had only 13 from its reserves.
Gasol finished with 26 points and eight rebounds and rookie Drew Gooden had 19 and 11 for the Grizzlies, who lost for the sixth time in seven games.
“We are losing by so few points,” Gasol said. “We are so close, it is the little details we mess up. Nobody likes losing at home. We want to be better every game.”
Jason Williams collected 15 points and eight assists and Giricek added 14 points for Memphis, which had its three-game home winning streak over Houston snapped.
“It is very frustrating,” Gasol said. “We need to get some wins, especially here at home. We have to pick it up.”
“When we are healthy with our best 10, we have to play a perfect game to beat the playoff teams,” Memphis coach Hubie Brown said. “We play well here, we have beaten the playoff teams. We have a lot of young talent and they are getting good experiences with this team.”
The Grizzlies had the lead for the first 16 minutes, but the teams exchanged the lead nine times and were tied four times in the final eight minutes of the second quarter. Francis made 1-of-2 free throws with four seconds left to give the Rockets a 43-42 halftime edge.
The teams exchanged the lead six times in the third quarter before Houston took it for good at 58-57 on a jumper by Francis with 4:43 remaining.