Scola's career night propels Rockets
HOUSTON — Luis Scola glanced at the scoreboard during the second half of last night's game against New Jersey and the night he was having finally started to sink in.
Scola finished with a career-high 44 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and the Houston Rockets beat the Nets, 116-108, to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
Scola hit 20 of 25 shots, many of them open layups, and reached the highest point total by a Rockets player since Tracy McGrady scored 47 against Utah in November 2007.
"It was one of those nights where you're feeling good, but then everything you try, works," Scola said. "I'm probably as surprised as you are."
The Argentine forward had 32 points after three quarters — already a career high — and sneaked a peek at his stat line in the lights above him.
"Just for a moment, I looked up and saw 32 or 33 (points)," Scola said. "I was like, 'Whoa, that is good.' "
Kevin Martin scored 20, Aaron Brooks added 18 points and seven assists and Houston strung together consecutive victories for the first time since early February.
Scola seemed to slip inside for layups all night, and finished off the Nets with a straight-on jumper that put Houston up 103-93 with just over four minutes left. Scola hit 6 of 8 shots and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and got chest bumps from Brooks and forward Chuck Hayes after the final buzzer sounded.
"I'm not surprised," Brooks said. "He played for Argentina, and we've got the 'Argentina Luis' now, so it's pretty good."
Martin, traded from Sacramento on Feb. 18, said Scola's performance reminded him of a big night Carmelo Anthony once had against the Kings. Shane Battier, who came off the bench for the first time this season, went a step further.
"Luis was awesome," Battier said. "They're erecting statues of him in Buenos Aires as we speak."
Courtney Lee scored 24 and Brook Lopez added 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who finished a five-game road trip with four straight losses.
Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe pointed to Houston's 27-4 edge in second-chance points as the difference.
"We were a little tired and it was tough in the fourth quarter," Vandeweghe said. "They pulled away at the end, and the offensive rebounding killed us. The second-chance points really hurt."
HAWKS 112, PISTONS 99
ATLANTA — Joe Johnson scored 26 points and Josh Smith had 18 points and a career-high 11 assists, helping Atlanta hold off a late comeback by Detroit.
The Hawks took a 28-point lead in the second quarter but suffered a second-half letdown. Atlanta kept its lead in double figures from the 7:17 mark of the opening quarter until Detroit's Ben Gordon scored with 6:45 remaining to cut the lead to 96-87.
MAGIC 109, WIZARDS 95
WASHINGTON — Dwight Howard had 28 points and 15 rebounds, and Orlando wore down Washington, playing its third game in three nights.
Howard became a one-man show early in the second half, and he and Jameer Nelson made the alley-oop look routine as the Magic won their eighth straight game, the franchise's longest winning streak since April 2006.
NUGGETS 125, GRIZZLIES 108
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — J.R. Smith scored 19 of his 30 points in the second half, rallying Denver past Memphis for its sixth straight victory.
Carmelo Anthony added 24 points for Denver, which trailed by 12 points in the first half, but scored 17 consecutive points bridging the third and fourth quarters to take a double-digit lead.
SPURS 118, CLIPPERS 88
SAN ANTONIO — George Hill had 14 points and a career-high 11 assists to help San Antonio beat Los Angeles for the 16th straight time.
Matt Bonner scored 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting to lead the Spurs, who have the longest winning streak by one team against another. Richard Jefferson added 18 points and nine rebounds.
KNICKS 128, MAVERICKS 94
DALLAS — Bill Walker scored a career-high 23 points, Wilson Chandler added 22 and New York snapped Dallas' 13-game winning streak and avenged a 50-point loss to the Mavericks earlier this season.
The Mavericks had their most lopsided win in franchise history in the first meeting between the teams, a 128-78 rout of the Knicks on Jan. 24 at Madison Square Garden. This time, it was the Knicks' turn for a runaway.
WARRIORS 124 RAPTORS 112
OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry had 35 points and 10 assists, Monta Ellis scored 31 in his second game back following a back injury and Golden State made 16 3-pointers in beating Toronto to snap a six-game losing streak.
The Raptors have lost four straight and eight of nine while seeing their lead over Chicago trimmed to 1 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
NBA dishes out penalties: Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich has been suspended one game without pay by the NBA for making contact with a referee during a 108-95 loss at Miami Friday night
The NBA also announced yesterday that Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry has been fined $25,000 for improper conduct toward a referee and for failing to leave the court in a timely manner after his ejection in Friday's 102-96 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.