HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets seemed to be rolling in the first half against New Orleans, shooting well and building a double-digit lead.
Luis Scola knew better.
'We weren't executing the right way,' the Rockets forward said. 'They came back, and that's what happens when you don't play good.'
Houston survived one of the worst fourth quarters in team history to hold off the Hornets 90-88 in overtime on Thursday night. Kevin Martin scored 27 of his 32 points in the first half, Samuel Dalembert grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds and the Rockets won their fifth straight game.
'It just looked like the life was out of us,' Martin said. 'But we found a way to pull out that one.'
Courtney Lee scored a season-high 17 points and Kyle Lowry added 10 points and eight assists for the Rockets, who shot 3 for 21 from the field in the fourth quarter and mustered 7 points, matching a team record set three times previously.
Martin hit 10-of-14 shots in the first half, then went 2 for 6 in the fourth as the Hornets rallied to tie it.
'I always tell them, `Give the fight and do your best,'' New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. 'We did everything we could to win the game.'
Jason Smith scored 17 points and Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli added 15 points apiece for the Hornets, who've lost 12 of 13.
But the players on New Orleans' bench went nuts when Jack swished a baseline jumper with 3:47 left in overtime to give the Hornets their first lead, and Smith hit one from nearly the same spot to put the Hornets up 86-83.
Jack scored again before Dalembert converted a three-point play. Scola sank two free throws to tie it with 1:10 remaining.
Martin picked up a loose ball with under 30 seconds left and missed a layup on a fast break, but Dalembert grabbed the rebound and dunked with 11 seconds left.
'We put ourselves in that situation,' Dalembert said. 'We dug ourselves so deep that we had to dig ourselves out. And we did it.'
Belinelli missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Houston escaped to beat the Hornets for only the second time in the last eight meetings.
'I'm only taking positives from this game,' Smith said. 'We played hard and that's what we have to do every game to give ourselves a chance to win.'
Houston shredded the Hornets' defense in the first half, going 8 for 14 from 3-point range and matching its first-half season high point total set in Monday's 114-106 win in Washington.
With the Hornets focused on Martin in the third quarter, Dalembert scored six points inside to keep Houston in front. But like Scola, Houston coach Kevin McHale sensed that the Rockets were losing their offensive rhythm.
'We had no flow in that second half after having had a lot of flow early,' McHale said. 'On average, you can feel it coming on and it's a bad feeling.'
The Rockets' bench was unable to stretch the lead early in the fourth, and Lowry says the New Orleans defense deserves credit for turning the tide.
'They junked it up a little bit on us,' Lowry said. 'Just being physical, just being everywhere, just showing hard on the defensive end and making sure we didn't get easy shots.'
Martin returned and converted a three-point play with 7:02 left for a 78-69 Houston lead.
The Hornets' defense fueled a 9-0 run capped by Smith's turnaround jumper to cut the deficit to 80-79 with just over two minutes remaining.
Smith had a chance to win it in regulation, but his turnaround at the buzzer rimmed out.
NOTES: The Rockets have held double-digit leads in eight straight games, one shy of matching their longest streak since 2008-09. ... Houston has won 18 consecutive games when holding its opponent below 90 points. ... Dalembert has three double-doubles this season, all in the last week. ... The Hornets have held 12 of their first 14 opponents below 100 points. ... The Rockets had a 53-48 edge on the boards, only the third time this season that the Hornets have been outrebounded. ... Hornets coach Monty Williams set no target date for the return of shooting guard Eric Gordon, who's been out since Jan. 4 with a bruised right knee. ... Rockets F Jordan Hill sat out with flu-like symptoms.