HOUSTON (AP)—Now in his second season, Luis Scola is more comfortable in the NBA. It’s starting to show.
The durable forward from Argentina had his seventh double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds to help the Rockets beat Sacramento 107-96 on Friday night.
“There are bunch of things that can affect you in the first year, versus the second year, when you know everything,” Scola said. “I think I’m playing with more confidence.”
The 28-year-old Scola has played in every game this season, and his 23 points matched a season high.
John Salmons scored 26 and Brad Miller added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings. Sacramento has lost four of its last six and dropped to 1-2 since Kenny Natt replaced fired coach Reggie Theus on Monday.
The Kings had been routed by at least 23 points in five of their previous seven losses. Natt saw progress in this one, even though his team was outrebounded 42-32 and committed 18 turnovers.
“If we continue to give this type of effort,” Natt said, “we are going to win some games.”
The Rockets led 84-76 early in the fourth quarter, when Ron Artest scooped a one-handed pass to Scola for a layup. Scola was fouled on the play and walked to the free-throw line as Artest smiled and pointed to the crowd.
Houston had 26 assists for the second straight game and is finally starting to come together as players come back from injuries.
“I feel like we’re making great strides to try to establish what we want to do offensively” said McGrady. “We have shooters on this team, we have creators on this team.”
Former Rockets player Bobby Jackson sank a 3-pointer with 3:14 left to trim Sacramento’s deficit to 98-92. But he missed a drive on the Kings’ next possession, and Yao sank two free throws with 2:18 remaining.
Yao went 11-for-13 from the field, and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line to reach 30 points for the second straight game.
“I’ve been trying to use my body more, so that I can get inside and draw the foul,” he said. “I think I’m using my size to my advantage.”
Houston played without point guard Rafer Alston (strained left hamstring) and got a brief injury scare from McGrady early in the game. He had averaged 21 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists in three games since sitting out the previous seven to rest his sore left knee, but knocked knees with Spencer Hawes on a drive near the 8-minute mark of the opening quarter.
McGrady stumbled into the crowd and winced as he came limping back onto the court. He shook off it off, though, sinking two free throws and scoring on two drives over the next two minutes.
The Kings led 48-38 with 7:26 left in the half, but Sacramento finally started missing shots and the Rockets finished the half with a 15-4 spurt to forge a 55-all tie at the break.
The Kings coughed up three turnovers early in the third quarter and the Rockets built a six-point cushion. Miller converted two three-point plays to tie it again at 69.
The Rockets outscored Sacramento 13-4 over the final five minutes of the quarter to push the lead to 82-73, their biggest of the game to that point.
“We had a bad run of turnovers and that killed us,” Miller said. “Otherwise, the game would’ve been a different story.”
Aaron Brooks started for Alston, and had 10 points and five assists. Houston G Brent Barry was inactive with a nagging right calf muscle injury. … Kings G Beno Udrih left the game in the fourth quarter with a sore left hamstring. He had two points and three assists. … Jackson scored 19 points, a season high.