With the agonizing road trip down to its final 15 seconds, the Rockets had suffered and Kevin Martin had sat long enough.
They had been punished by a narrow defeat in Dallas, tormented in San Antonio, tortured by the overtime loss in Los Angeles not 24 hours earlier. Another game had moved to its final seconds, with the Rockets trailing by two and down to their last chance. But this time, finally, they changed the formula.
Martin, who had been on the bench through nearly eight fourth-quarter minutes, returned to the floor, cut through the lane and grabbed a pass from Shane Battier through a thick crowd of defenders. When he put in his layup through a foul, he had a stunning three-point play, and moments later, the Rockets had a 97-96 win over the Utah Jazz, relieving at least some of the pain from a long, tough trip.
"We were playing good the whole trip," said Luis Scola, who made the defensive stop to seal the win. "I think we deserved at least one win. If we would have gone 0-4 after this trip, we would have been very, very disappointed. We needed one win at least."
They deserved this one because they made the two late-game plays to win it that they could not against the Mavericks and Lakers.
Before returning Martin to the floor for the final Rockets possession, coach Rick Adelman had gone with Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry in the backcourt. That worked for a while, as the Rockets went from down six when he made the substitution to a three-point lead. He went with Battier instead of Martin to protect it.
"Tonight, it wasn't so bad," Martin said of sitting for eight minutes. "Coming off the back-to-back and getting in late, I was tired. Coach gave me the proper rest and saved me for the last part."
Brooks had scored 14 off the bench but in the final minutes had missed a 3 and a runner. Lowry turned the ball over, and Scola came up short on a 4-footer. When Paul Millsap finished a drive, the Jazz took a lead into the final seconds.
This time, Rockets don't fold
Houston Chronicle | Feb 3