for this game

Rockets run out of gas in fourth, lose to Hornets

Mar 20, 2008 - 4:52 AM By William Dunn PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) - The Houston Rockets' once impressive win streak has shifted into reverse.

After winning 22 games in a row, Houston has now lost two straight as the New Orleans Hornets beat the Rockets, 90-69, at a sold-out New Orleans Arena on Wednesday.

"It was a disappointing loss," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We couldn't do anything in the second half offensively at all. I think we shot 27 percent in the second half and we turned it over 19 times for the game. It's hard to win games on the road, especially against a good team like this."

The Celtics beat the Rockets Tuesday by outscoring them, 32-16, in the third quarter. New Orleans had a similar burst, riding a 31-10 fourth quarter to victory.

Bonzi Wells, who the Rockets traded to the Hornets just before the deadline, scored 20 of his 25 points in the final period to help spark the Hornets to victory.

"I kind of just vibe off of C.P. (Hornets point guard Chris Paul)," Wells said. "I think he's an excellent point guard. That's all we do is kind of play off of him. I just try to get to a spot where he feels comfortable to give it to me and I just have to finish. As long as I focus on finishing strong and making my free throws, I'm going to have a good night."

The game started slowly for New Orleans, which had lost its last two games to Houston. The Rockets took an early 20-8 lead and finished the first quarter leading, 24-16. New Orleans shot 29 percent to Houston's 50 and missed all five of its shots from behind the 3-point arc.

"I kept telling our guys in the first half, especially that first quarter, 'We're doing a good job defensively. We're missing our shots right now. If we just hang in there on the defensive end, shots are going to fall,'" Hornets coach Byron Scott said.

"The third quarter was a big-time quarter for us to get off to a real good start. Basically, for the rest of that second half, we did a heck of a job defensively of just making sure that they didn't get a whole lot of easy shots."

Defense may have been the key to the Hornets second half success, but Wells was the key to their fourth quarter scoring. Wells started the quarter with a dunk and was fouled by Luis Scola. He completed the three-point play to ignite a 15-4 run.

Wells scored 11 points in the spurt and capped it with a jumper to give the Hornets a 74-63 lead with 5:27 to play. Scott said that Wells still only knows about five of the teams plays, but presents opposing defenses with a difficult 1-on-1 matchup.

"I've got like five plays for Bonzi (Wells) when he comes in the game," Scott said. "I think when we made the trade, most of teams that we play against thought that getting Bonz was going to be a big-time help for us, and obviously we made the trade because we felt the same way. I think right now it's paying dividends.

"The good thing about Bonzi is that he's a great 1-on-1 post-up player, but he's also a great passer. He's one of those guys that's not selfish, that's a team oriented guy."

After missing the past two games with a sprained ankle, David West had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Paul added 21 points and 10 assists for New Orleans (46-21), which moved one-half game ahead of Houston (46-22) for the top spot in the Southwest Division and even with the Los Angeles Lakers (46-21) for first in the Western Conference.

"I'm going to tell you right now, it's a cool feeling," Paul said. "We've been in first place before, but I guarantee you it's going to change three or four more times before the end of the season. We've just got to continue to try and play and win as many games as possible."

Tracy McGrady led the Rockets with 15 points. McGrady shot 6-21 from the field and scored just two points in the second half. Shane Battier and Luis Scola added 14 points each before Scola fouled out in the fourth quarter.

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