HOUSTON (AP) -The Houston Rockets weren't great on Tuesday night, but pretty good was enough to beat a Washington Wizards team that hasn't won in more than a month.
Rookie Chase Budinger hit a go-ahead jump shot with 28 seconds remaining and made two free throws to help the Rockets escape with a 98-94 win over the struggling Wizards.
The win breaks a four-game skid for the Rockets and extends Washington's team-record losing streak to 16 games.
``It was harder than we expected, but we were very short-handed,' Houston's Luis Scola said. ``Washington was trying to get a win to stay away from the losing streak. They played hard. They were hitting shots, so we had to dig a little bit deeper in order to get the win.'
In this matchup of banged-up and undermanned squads, it seemed for most of the game that neither team would pull away. The Rockets finally did, thanks to Budinger's career-high 24-points, to win their first game since Kevin Martin has been out of the lineup with a sore shoulder.
Budinger's jumper made it 94-92 and he added the free throws after a missed 3-point attempt by Earl Boykins.
``He bailed us out tonight,' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said of Budinger. ``Ran that play perfectly. I told him to bank it and he banked it.'
Budinger said hitting a couple of layups early, helped build his confidence for success later in the game.
Mike Miller cut the lead to two points with a tip-in with five seconds left, but Kyle Lowry made two free throws to secure the win.
Andray Blatche scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Wizards and Miller added 14 points and 12 rebounds.
About the only bit of good news for the woeful Wizards is that they have one more chance, on Wednesday at New Orleans, to avoid a winless March. Their last victory came on Feb. 28 against the New Jersey Nets, a team that's won just 10 games this season.
``We were right there but couldn't get the job done,' Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. ``We've been in games like that all season and that's what's very frustrating.'
Houston trailed by five points with about four minutes left before Luis Scola made two quick baskets to cut the lead to 89-88. Boykins was fouled on a 3-point attempt, but made just one of the three shots to make it 90-88.
Budinger tied it moments later with a jump shot before two free throws from Boykins put Washington back on top with almost two minutes remaining.
Lowry, who finished with 17 points, tied the game at 92-all, with his jump shot seconds later.
It was tied at 80-all with 8 1/2 minutes remaining before Washington scored six straight points, with four from JaVale McGee, to pull ahead 86-80.
``I'm going to take full responsibility for the loss,' Blatche said. ``I made tough decisions down the stretch and I didn't rely on my teammates ... I tried to do things I shouldn't. I thought there was no way we could lose that game. I need to show more trust in my teammates.'
Houston got 16 points from Scola and 14 points from Jermaine Taylor. Aaron Brooks added 11 points and had 11 assists for the Rockets.
Both teams have been hampered by missing and injured players this season.
Houston has been without star center Yao Ming all season and has recently been missing Martin and Shane Battier as well as role players Jared Jeffries and David Andersen because of injuries. Martin, who missed his third straight, is the team's highest scorer, having averaged almost 22 points a game since being traded to Houston in the three-team deal that sent Tracy McGrady to the Knicks.
The Wizards are missing a similar number of players, led by star guard Gilbert Arenas, who is suspended for the season because of a gun charge that recently got him sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house and two years' probation. They're also missing Josh Howard, who has a torn ACL, Randy Foye, out for at least seven to 10 days with a wrist injury and Al Thornton who has a hip flexor.
The Rockets scored the first five points of the third quarter to tie it at 53-all. The game was tied four times after that in the quarter before a jump shot by Blatche gave Washington a 67-65 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The teams exchanged the lead several times in the first half, but the Wizards outscored Houston 7-2 in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the second quarter to lead 53-48 at halftime.
Notes: Cartier Martin, who was signed to a 10-day contract on Tuesday, didn't score in six minutes for the Wizards. ... The game was tied 19 times and the lead changed 11 times. ... Brooks tied a season high with eight rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved