Artest scored 10 of his 28 points in the second overtime and the Rockets recovered from blowing a 16-point lead in the second half to beat the Utah Jazz 120-115 on Saturday night.
Yao Ming had 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who led 59-43 early in the third quarter, then went 3-for-18 from the field in the fourth to fuel Utah’s comeback.
Artest went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the second overtime to help the Rockets beat Utah in their first meeting since the Jazz eliminated Houston in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
“I should have been attacking all night instead of waiting for double overtime,” Artest said. “Better late than never.”
Ronnie Brewer scored 23 and Deron Williams had 14 points and 11 assists for the Jazz, who played without their top three scorers and rebounders—Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Paul Millsap—for the second straight game.
Utah finished with a season-high 35 assists and nearly pulled off the rally because of its defense in the fourth quarter.
“We came back in the second half, but couldn’t finish the game,” said Andrei Kirilenko, who scored 20. “Our defense was good and forced Houston to shoot more jump shots in the second half.”
Artest has been playing through a sprained right ankle and been listed as “day to day” for weeks. The ankle was throbbing again on Saturday, and Artest even told his wife that he was sitting out the game.
But the Rockets were missing Tracy McGrady, sidelined again with a sore left knee, and Artest decided to play.
“I thought it would be smart if I took this game off, but Mac didn’t play,” Artest said. “You think about the team, you think about winning and how you can help. That’s what leads to, ‘I’m playing.”’
Good thing for Houston he did.
The game was tied at 96 at the end of the regulation, and at 101 after the first overtime.
Artest went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the first minute of the second extra period to give the Rockets a 105-101 lead. On Houston’s next trip, Luis Scola cut inside for a layup, was fouled by Kyrylo Fesenko and finished the three-point play to put Houston up 108-102.
Kyle Korver sank a 3-pointer before Artest scored in the lane to put the Rockets up 110-105. The Jazz got no closer than five after that, and the crowd started chanting Artest’s name before he made two free throws with 1:14 left to stretch the Rockets’ lead to 114-107.
“That’s what we brought him to this team to do,” said point guard Rafer Alston, “to help close out games and to really be himself. Tonight, he was Ron.”
The Jazz are dealing with their own injury issues—Boozer has been out since Nov. 21 with a strained left quad, Okur has missed three straight games with back spasms and Millsap sat out the second straight game with a sprained left knee.
With Utah’s top three big men sidelined, Yao and the Rockets dominated inside. They hit 12 of 19 shots and outrebounded the Jazz 13-6 in the first quarter to lead 34-24.
Houston led 52-39 when Williams drove down the lane, collided with Yao and lost the ball. No foul was called, but Williams landed awkwardly and limped to the other end, apparently favoring his left knee. Sloan called a timeout, but Williams stayed in the game.
Houston outrebounded Utah 26-12 in the first half and led 56-43 at the break. The Jazz did have one amazing statistic in the first half—17 assists on all 17 field goals. Kirilenko scored on a tip-in a minute into the second half to end the streak of assists.
The Rockets led 80-70 after three quarters and Brewer scored two baskets in the first 50 seconds of the fourth to trim the deficit to six. Brent Barry and Artest sank 3-pointers over the next minute to put the Rockets up 86-74.
Houston then missed its next 10 shots over the next seven minutes and Utah cut the lead to 89-86 on Brewer’s fast-break layup with 3:39 remaining.
“Some mental lapses and we had a couple of bad possessions (in the fourth quarter),” Alston said. “We allowed them to get into a rhythm and get some offensive rebounds and second-chance points.”
Williams tied the game at 96-all on a drive with 12.8 seconds left and Artest missed a 3-point try off the front rim to force overtime.
Yao has 17 double-doubles this season. … The Rockets’ first-quarter point total was a season high. … Utah had won four of its last five games at the Toyota Center, including last year’s playoffs. … The Rockets have won seven straight home games.