Warriors-Rockets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 22, 2012
The short-handed and inconsistent Houston Rockets haven't had much success building off victories, but a stretch of home games provides them with the opportunity to create some momentum. The Rockets look to win their seventh straight at home over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. Houston is still in playoff position in the Western Conference, but is clinging to a half-game lead over ninth-place Utah. The Rockets (25-22) have just four wins in their last 12 games. Goran Dragic helped them overcome a 17-point deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-104 on Tuesday, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 28 seconds left as Houston avoided a third straight loss. He finished with 16 points and 13 assists, scoring 10 points in the final quarter. Houston, which averaged 88.5 points the previous two games, was down by nine with five minutes left. "It's huge, especially after losing those two games," Dragic said. "Today we were fighting." Dragic has been starting in place of Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection), and Rockets leading scorer Kevin Martin has missed the last five games with a right shoulder injury. It's not certain when either will return. While the absence of two starters could be tough to deal with down the stretch, the Rockets are hoping to take advantage of a heavy stretch of home games. Tuesday opened a four-game homestand for Houston, which plays five of its next six at Toyota Center. The Rockets are 17-6 at home. "We have to win those games if we want to be a playoff team," said Dragic, who has averaged 16.0 points the last seven games - nearly double his season average. It would help if Luis Scola can continue his hot stretch. He finished with 23 points Tuesday and is averaging 20.3 on 50.5 percent shooting the last six games. Houston lost 106-97 at Golden State on Feb. 12, committing 19 turnovers, but it has won six in a row at home over the Warriors by an average of 15.1 points. Scola has averaged 22.8 points and 12.0 rebounds in his last five games versus Golden State. The Warriors (19-25), who are 4 1/2 games back of the Rockets, are trying to win back-to-back games after snapping a four-game skid with a 101-92 victory at New Orleans on Wednesday. After giving up an average of 105.3 points in the previous four games, Golden State trailed 58-51 midway through the third quarter. The Warriors responded with a 20-5 run, then held the Hornets to 20 points in the final 12 minutes. Rookie Klay Thompson scored a season-high 27 points, hitting four of the team's 14 3-pointers, and David Lee added 25 points and 11 rebounds. Thompson has averaged 20.0 points in six games since Monta Ellis was traded to Milwaukee. "I can't just come in right away as a rookie and replace someone like that," Thompson said. "I'm just trying to do what I do and play my style of basketball." Golden State was without starting center Andris Biedrins as he sat out with a sprained shoulder he sustained Monday against Minnesota. His status for Thursday is uncertain. Stephen Curry remains out with an ankle injury.
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