Rockets beat Hornets 112-109 for 2nd straight victory

Houston Rockets center Boban Marjanovic, left, keeps the ball away from Charlotte Hornets center Nick Richards, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, April 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman) (Jacob Kupferman, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green each had 26 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Charlotte Hornets 112-109 on Friday night.

Kenyon Martin Jr. added 14 points, Alperen Sengun had 14 points and 21 rebounds and Jabari Smith Jr. scored 13 points. The Rockets won consecutive games for the fifth time this season, improving to 21-50.

The Hornets (26-55) played their home finale without injured starters LaMelo Ball (right ankle surgery), Gordon Hayward (left thumb sprain), Terry Rozier (right foot injury), P.J. Washington (right foot sprain) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (left shoulder sprain) and top reserve Dennis Smith (right toe sprain).

Svi Mykhailiuk led Charlotte with 25 points, Theo Maledon had 22 and Bryce McGowens 16.

Houston trailed 26-25 after the first quarter but took the lead for good in the middle of the second quarter and led 55-49 at the break, 85-73 after three quarter and by 14 points early in the fourth quarter before Charlotte pulled within three.

The Rockets scored the next six points to play to push it to 108-99 before Charlotte surged again. Charlotte twice had a chance to tie on Mykhailiuk’s 3-point tries in the final 13.1 seconds. But his first attempt was well-defended by Smith and came up short. And his second, after Martin missed two free throws, was off to the left at the buzzer.

In a season that started 2-12, Houston coach Stephen Silas was happy to see his team get an “ugly win.”

“It shows that we definitely have a solid foundation for the future and that these guys work, work and work and, like we said at the All-Star break, we want to be playing our best at the end of the season,” said Silas, whose team is 8-15 since the break, “It wasn’t a great game by any stretch. But it was a win. To have ugly win is something we haven’t done much.”

Porter agreed with his team, saying the youthful team whose five starters are 22 or younger is gaining more and more seasoning.

“We’re starting to getting the reps together and our chemistry is starting to gel,” Porter said. “With experience, you’re seeing growth.”

Hornets coach Steve Clifford thought his team’s 17 turnovers that led to 28 points were a difference as were his team’s inability to defend Houston’s pick-and-roll plays.

“The last three and a half minutes of the game, they ran the same play every time,” Clifford said. “We had a coverage, and we never got to the coverage, as you saw. Some of it is tough matchups, but you’ve got to be able to execute there, and we didn’t.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: Rookie Tari Eason is one game away from becoming the first rookie to play an entire 82-game season since 2018-19. Eason, a rookie out of LSU, also is close to becoming the third player in NBA history to have 190 or more offensive rebounds and 90 or more steals while playing fewer than 1,800 minutes in a season.

Hornets: Charlotte has lost 258 player games this season due to injury or illness.

UP NEXT

Rockets: At Washington on Sunday.

Hornets: At Cleveland on Sunday.

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