By Brett Martel / The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- No one has been able to stop Kevin Martin lately, which is a big reason why the Houston Rockets have won four straight.
Martin scored 33 points, his third straight game with 30 or more, and the Houston Rockets overcame a 16-point, second-half deficit to beat the New Orleans Hornets 91-89 on Sunday night.
"Kevin was the player of the game," said Houston guard Kyle Lowry, who added 18 points. "He saved us.”
Martin made four 3-pointers and hit all 13 of his free throws, including two foul shots with 18.4 seconds left to give Houston a 90-87 lead.
On the Hornets' next possession, Willie Green's attempted 3-pointer to tie rimmed out and Courtney Lee secured the rebound with 5 seconds left, then made one free throw to essentially secure the victory.
Martin was 8 of 15 from the field, picking his moments from outside and driving to the rim when Hornets starting center Emeka Okafor was on the bench.
"I was just being aggressive, knowing I could attack the basket when Okafor was out of the game," Martin said. "There was just a good matchup for me."
New Orleans, meanwhile, finished with 34 points in the second half after building a commanding 55-40 halftime lead.
"To have that kind of lead on your home floor and not be able to close it out is disheartening," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "Thirty-four second-half points is nonsense. We didn't run our offensive sets hard. We walked the ball up and looked like an old team. That team played last night. We should have been the aggressor. We got enough defensive stops, but we didn't run an efficient offense tonight."
David West had 20 points and Chris Paul had 12 assists for New Orleans, which lost for the first time in three games since the All-Star break. Paul shot 2 of 12, finishing with only six points.
"I couldn't make a shot," Paul said. "I've got to do my part. My college coaches would say, 'It's a team game played by individuals.' I lost my matchup tonight."
Houston made 11 3-pointers, including four by Lowry.
Chuck Hayes grabbed 11 rebounds for Houston, including six on the offensive end. The Rockets had 13 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points.
Hayes also provided clutch offense when he scored as he was fouled to put Houston up 88-85 with 2:08 left.
West pulled the Hornets to 88-87, and New Orleans had two chances to regain the lead, but Green was unable to handle a pass from West and Trevor Ariza's go-ahead 3-point attempt missed the rim.
"For us to be down (by 16) and fight and claw our way back – it just shows the growth of this team and how good we can be and how dangerous we can be," Hayes said.
Down 58-42 early in the third quarter, Houston trimmed its deficit to 10 by the end of the period, then surged ahead with 14-2 run highlighted by four 3s, two by Martin and one each by Lowry and Lee.
Brad Miller's jumper capped the surge, giving Houston an 80-78 lead with 6:58 to go and setting up a tense finish to a game that had 10 lead changes and nine ties.
"We just kept grinding and made some shots and did a great job down the stretch," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We just started playing with a lot more resolve. The first half, we were frantic on offense. We were rushing things. It kind of opened up the game for (the Hornets)."
The victory pulled the Rockets (30-31) within three games of Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Hornets outshot Houston, 47.4 percent to 41.9 percent, but New Orleans was 4 of 13 from 3-point range and was outrebounded 41-37.
Marco Belinelli had 14 points for the Hornets and former Rockets Ariza and Carl Landry each scored 13 points for New Orleans, while Green added 10. Okafor grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Rockets got to the arena behind schedule because their downtown hotel was on a Mardi Gras parade route and they had no police escort. Their first bus needed an hour to make what is normally a 10-minute drive, while the second bus, which left the hotel a little later, needed about 45 minutes.
That had little effect on Martin, who'd scored 30 in each of his previous two games and continued his torrid pace, scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes and 15 in the first half.
But after Martin's three free throws gave Houston a 33-31 lead, New Orleans surged ahead with an 18-0 run that included a streak of eight made field goals and solid defense highlighted by blocks by Okafor, Quincy Pondexter and Ariza.
Belinelli scored eight during the surge, hitting two 3s. West, who had 14 points in the first half, had six points during the run, which made it 49-33.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)