HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Rockets understand they have little margin for error heading into the last full month of the season.
Kevin Martin scored 20 points, Chase Budinger and Kyle Lowry added 18 apiece and the Rockets beat the Indiana Pacers 112-95 Saturday night.
Luis Scola scored 16 and Chuck Hayes had 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who are 6-1 since the All-Star break and starting to barge into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Houston is 11th in the West, 2 1/2 games behind Memphis in the race for the No. 8 spot in the postseason. Utah and Phoenix also stand between then and the Grizzlies.
The Rockets play six of their next eight at home, a pivotal stretch if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
``Good teams play their best basketball in the months of March and April,' Martin said. ``For us, where we're at in the standings, we need to have a great March, no doubt about that. Guys are committed to coming in and working hard every day, practicing for games. We'll just see where this takes us.'
The Rockets knew they couldn't afford to stumble against the sub-.500 Pacers and they never trailed in this one. Houston took advantage of Indiana's poor shooting in the first half and then put the game away with an 18-4 run to start the third quarter.
``We can't control what other teams do, we've got to control what we can do,' said Lowry, who had six of Houston's 23 assists. ``All we can do is win games.'
Tyler Hansbrough had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Danny Granger added 16 points and Roy Hibbert had 15 for the Pacers, who've dropped five of six. Indiana came into the game holding the No. 8 spot in the East, one game ahead of Charlotte.
``We have to put this game behind us, and stay focused as a team,' said Hansbrough. ``It seemed like it was their game, and not ours.'
Indiana was coming off a 116-108 loss in Dallas on Friday and was playing its fourth game in five days.
``They jumped on us early, and we never recovered,' Granger said. ``We played like a tired team and we need to turn things around.'
Houston led 65-49 at the break. Lowry sank a 3-pointer, was fouled by Darren Collison and tacked on the free throw early in the third quarter to put the Rockets up 76-53. Budinger then swished a 3 on Houston's next trip to give the Rockets their widest margin of the game to that point.
Indiana missed 11 of their first 16 shots in the second half, and Budinger's free throw with 1:16 left in the quarter extended Houston's lead to 92-64, its biggest of the game.
The Pacers shot 41 percent from the field (38 of 92), committed 20 turnovers and made only one 3-pointer in five attempts.
``It was all about execution,' Indiana coach Frank Vogel said, ``and we didn't get the job done.'
Indiana went 7 for 24 from the field in the first quarter and the Rockets easily built a double-digit lead.
A lineup of all reserves started the second quarter for the Pacers, and the Rockets opened with a 7-2 burst to stay in control. Courtney Lee drove for a layup and hit a 3-pointer and Patrick Patterson cut inside for another basket to stretch the lead to 36-20.
``They came out with a lot of energy from the very start, and they continued right on through it,' Houston coach Rick Adelman said. ``I'm very happy with the effort we had. It's a big game for us, being at home against a team that's fighting for the playoffs, too.'
Houston stretched the lead over 20 as the Pacers continued to miss shots and give away careless turnovers. Goran Dragic, acquired from Phoenix just before the trade deadline, sank a 3-pointer after Indiana's sixth turnover to make it 47-24.
The Pacers finally started hitting in the last five minutes of the half, and Granger's three-point play capped a 17-7 spurt to cut the deficit to 54-41.
Notes: The Pacers were held below 100 points for only the third time in their last 18 games. ... Granger made all 8 of his free throws and has made his last 40 attempts. ... Hayes has at least 10 rebounds in five of his last six games. ... The Rockets have won their last 12 games when holding their opponent below 100 points. ... Houston finished with 11 blocked shots.
The Associated Press News Service
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