HOUSTON (AP) -- The Memphis Grizzlies are growing more confident
with each victory in a late regular-season surge. Now, they even
think they can finally win a playoff series.
Pau Gasol added 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as the
Grizzlies won for the sixth time in seven games. The win inched
Memphis a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers in the race
for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
"We're on a really nice role," Gasol said. "We're playing
with confidence, our chemistry's good and our mentality is good.
"We just want to win," he said. "That's all we know right
Memphis has been swept out of the playoffs in the first round
the last two seasons -- by San Antonio in 2004 and by Phoenix last
"The last two years have been kind of sour notes," Miller
said. "But we've learned you can't just pick it up when the
Juwan Howard scored 16 points on 5-for-18 shooting for the
Rockets, who've dropped seven of their last eight as they limp to
the end of their injury-ravaged season.
Leading scorer Tracy McGrady, who has missed 32 games with a bad
back, greeted his teammates in street clothes before the game.
Fellow All-Star Yao Ming, who had surgery Friday on his broken left
foot that will sideline him 4-6 months, was a no-show.
With two games left, Houston is already assured of its worst
record since the 2001-02 team finished 28-54. The Rockets' home
record fell to 15-25, their highest loss total at home since the
1982-83 squad lost 32 during a 14-68 campaign.
The Rockets wrap up the season at Denver on Monday and against
San Antonio next Wednesday at the Toyota Center.
"Our last two games are against the same type of competition
(as Memphis), or even better," said Houston guard Luther Head.
"It's all about just going out there and playing hard."
Memphis built an early 12-point lead with a 14-3 run bridging
the first and second quarters. Houston missed seven of eight shots
during the spurt and trailed 29-17.
Stromile Swift, drafted by the Grizzlies in 2000, had a dunk,
two baseline jumpers and a pair of free throws in a 14-2 run that
got the Rockets back in it.
Rafer Alston beat the halftime buzzer with a driving layup to
forge a 46-all tie at the break.
Fratello asked his players for suggestions at halftime and they
came up with some that worked.
"They said, 'What about this and what about that," Fratello
said. "I think maybe it helped us a little bit."
Eddie Jones sank a 3-pointer and Battier hit two from the corner
as the Grizzlies rebuilt their lead in the third quarter. Battier
added a hook in the lane, his eighth basket without a miss, to put
Memphis up 67-59. He ruined his perfect shooting night a few
minutes later, missing a 3-point attempt from the corner.
The Grizzlies still led 73-62 heading to the fourth after
holding the Rockets to five field goals in the third.
Miller was one of the players who recommended changes at
"We just wanted to guard a few things differently," Miller
The Rockets scored only 10 points in the fourth quarter of
Wednesday's loss to Minnesota and struggled again in the final 12
minutes on Saturday.
Gasol and Miller scored inside and a bad pass by Swift led to a
three-point play by Bobby Jackson that extended the lead to 18.
A hook shot by Dikembe Mutombo finished a quick 6-0 Houston
spurt, but Miller swished a 3-pointer after a timeout and the
poor-shooting Rockets got no closer than 11 after that.
Miller came off the bench to go 10-for-14. He entered the game
with 2:40 left in the opening quarter and hit two 3-pointers before
the second quarter began.
"When you come off the bench, you've got to get yourself
involved as much as possible, as quickly as possible," he said.
Battier finished 8-for-11 from the field and he and Miller both
went 2-for-4 from 3-point range.
The Rockets shot 2-for-11 from 3-point range, dropping to
6-of-38 in their last three games.
For the fourth time in five road games, the Grizzlies wore
the red, white and blue uniforms of the former Memphis Pros of the
ABA. The Pros played in Memphis from 1970-72. The team was called
the Tams from 1972-74 and the Sounds from '74-75. The Rockets wore
uniforms from the 1993 season. ... The Rockets dropped to 0-7 when
neither McGrady nor Yao play.