Rockets down HornetsMar 17, 2009 - 4:09 AM NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Ron Artest could not have started any worse or finished much better.
Houston's veteran leader scored all of his 18 points in the second half, and the Rockets overcame the absence of center Yao Ming in a 95-84 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.
Artest missed his first 11 shots, nine in the first half, but hit four tough shots in a row as the Rockets rallied back to take the lead from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter.
"When you play in this league against many, many good players, you kind of pick up things and learn how to get through situations like that," Artest said. "Sometimes you're going to have a first half like that, and that's why you have a team and we still win by 12. That just shows what type of team we have."
Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks each scored 14 points, and Scola had 12 rebounds to help the Rockets end New Orleans' five-game home winning streak.
Chris Paul had 29 points and 11 assists, while David West had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets, who've lost two straight.
"We lost one that we should have won," Paul said. "They got just about everything they wanted in the second half with layups and free throws and that's what hurt us."
Yao sat out with flu-like symptoms and 42-year-old Dikembe Mutombo, playing in only his fifth game this season, started in his place.
Mutombo scored only one point on a free throw but had six rebounds and blocked Hornets swingman Julian Wright three times on drives to the hoop, wagging his finger every time.
Mutombo said there was a practical purpose to the finger-wagging beyond showing anyone up.
"I've got to stop and take a breath," he said, smirking. "I'm old. I don't need to be running up and down."
Carl Landry and Von Wafer each scored 12 points and Shane Battier 11 as the Rockets, holding on to the third seed in the Western Conference, prevented the Hornets from passing them in the standings.
The Hornets, who led 47-43 at halftime, appeared to be taking control of the game when alley-oop dunks by Wright and Tyson Chandler highlighted an 8-0 run to give New Orleans a 55-44 lead in the third quarter. Houston coach Rick Adelman called timeout, and the Rockets returned in far better form.
Artest got his first points on free throws, then made his next four shots and added an assist on Scola's driving scoop during a 16-2 spurt that put Houston ahead 62-59.
New Orleans got only five points the rest of the quarter, all from Paul, whose floater as he was fouled cut Houston's lead to 67-64 heading into the final period.
James Posey's 3 to open the fourth quarter tied the game, and the Hornets led 75-73 on Posey's baseline drive with 7:01 to go.
Houston responded with an 8-0 run during which Landry swatted away Paul's floater and later hit two free throws. Artest also scored on a finger roll during the surge.
"There's nobody at my position that can keep me from getting to the basket, so I have to keep that in mind," Artest said. "Tonight, I should have gotten to the hole a little earlier."
After West's jumper briefly stopped to run, Artest scored again on a driving layup and Landry dunked on a fast break to make it 85-77 with 3:47 left. The Hornets were stagnant after that, and Chandler fouled out while battling Landry for a rebound with 1:18 to go.
Despite the absence of Yao, Houston finished with a 38-37 edge in rebounding and outscored New Orleans 27-19 at the free-throw line.
"We can play without whoever," Landry said. "But it helps that everybody's ready when they have the opportunity to play."
NEW ORLEANS 84 FINAL
Mar 16 10:26 PM
NEW ORLEANS 64 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 16 9:51 PM
NEW ORLEANS 47 HALFTIME
Mar 16 9:12 PM
NEW ORLEANS 23 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 16 8:34 PM
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