HOUSTON -- It was easy for Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale to identify the stretch of basketball that was not to his liking on Saturday night. Also clearly recognizable: the player who carried Houston down the stretch.
Rockets forward Patrick Patterson scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to lift Houston to a 109-95 win over the Charlotte Bobcats at Toyota Center.
"It's all about finding teammates and getting open," Patterson said. "Early on I was running the court, providing opportunities for myself and my teammates to look for me. Throughout the course of the game, even though I was still running, they started getting back more often. In the fourth quarter I was running and running and wore them down."
After the Bobcats bridged the final two periods with a 29-9 run that flipped a 15-point deficit into an 86-81 lead on consecutive 3-pointers from Ben Gordon, the Rockets (26-23) began their recovery. Patterson, in particular, was critical to those efforts, starting with his post basket at the 7:24 mark that squared the Rockets and Bobcats (11-35) at 88-all.
Patterson continued his memorable roll soon thereafter, drilling back-to-back corner 3-pointers before converting an offensive rebound into a dunk with 4:40 remaining. Patterson added a dunk in transition off a feed from James Harden, who recorded his first career triple-double, and later made a shot clock buzzer beater to extend the lead to 101-93.
Patterson strung together 12 consecutive points en route to sharing game-high scoring honors with teammate Chandler Parsons, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, and Bobcats guard Kemba Walker. Harden added 21 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists while Rockets center Omer Asik paired 19 points with 15 boards. Houston finished plus-15 on the glass.
"Those were plays that we needed at critical times," Parsons said of the Patterson scoring spree. "And he stepped up for us."
The Bobcats' reserve guards sizzled, with Ramon Sessions, Jeffery Taylor and Gordon combining for 46 points on 15-for-31 shooting. The starting backcourt of Walker and Gerald Henderson also shot 15-for-31.
"Those guys wanted to get the ball out of my hands as soon as possible," Walker said. "Other guys did a good job stepping up and making some baskets."
The Rockets' penchant for transition scoring paid immediate dividends and yielded 13 fast-break points in the opening quarter. Houston appeared set to run the Bobcats out of the building after opening a 16-4 lead less than five minutes into the game, but Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap called a timeout to insert reserves and stem the Rockets' tide.
That scenario played out again in the third with the Rockets building their 11-point halftime lead to 72-57 on a pair of Harden free throws.
Buoyed by their aggressive backcourt, the Bobcats closed the third with a 20-7 run on the strength of their guards' handiwork. Walker was the linchpin, yet Henderson, Sessions and Taylor all contributed. But when Patterson caught fire, Houston also discovered some defensive might.
"We gave ourselves a chance," Sessions said. "Teams like Houston, you have to jump on them early. I think we gave them the lead early in the first quarter and never got it back to the way we needed it."
NOTES: Bobcats rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital after suffering a blow to the head and collapsing to the court with 10:37 remaining in the game. Kidd-Gilchrist lay motionless before being immobilized and subsequently transported via gurney. He was talking and moving his extremities in the ambulance, but Charlotte officials continued deliberating whether Kidd-Gilchrist would remain hospitalized overnight while the team traveled to Miami. ... Although the Rockets rank second in the NBA in fast break points at 18.7 per game, they remain a work in progress with their half-court offense. When opponents slow the Rockets down they struggle, and McHale listed areas where his team can improve. "More ball movement, more body movement, less turnovers, less playing in a crowd, more going from side to side," McHale said. "More a couple of those things." ... While it comes as no shock that the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Harden leads the NBA in combined three- and four-point plays, it is surprising that Walker ranks fourth in that category. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds, Walker relies on extraordinary balance to score through contact. " At UConn he would be hit in pockets but his shoulders always stayed square like a running back," Dunlap said. "Kemba has that uncanny ability to go up in the air, get hit, and keep facing the rim to finish."