The Houston Rockets needed everything they could get from superstars Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley.
Olajuwon hit a season-high 32 points and Pippen and Barkley each chipped in at key moments as the Rockets almost blew a 22-point lead before holding on for a 110-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
"When we get a lead, we don't always take advantage of it," Olajuwon said. "We seem to let other teams get back in but I think we're handling it better."
It was the Rockets' 10th straight victory over the Kings and it appeared easy until the final period.
The Rockets led by 22 points with 6:50 left in the third quarter and were still up by 97-81 with 6:24 left in the game. But then the Kings closed to 99-95 with a 14-2 charge led by former Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell and Chris Webber.
Houston stayed in control as Olajuwon hit a basket with 2:44 to go and Barkley added a basket and three free throws in the closing minutes.
Olajuwon added 12 rebounds, Barkley finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds and Pippen had 25 points and eight assists.
Pippen helped the Rockets get a quick start with 10 points and four assists in the first quarter. Olajuwon also had 10 first-quarter points.
"We have trouble putting teams away when we have a good lead," Pippen said. "It's got to start on the defensive end. You have to focus on defending the guy you are matched up with. We still have a lot to work on defensively."
Michael Dickerson had 23 for the Rockets.
"Offensively, we were great, but Michael is really exciting," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "He made some big plays for us tonight. Michael, for us, has been a very positive thing."
Maxwell and Webber each had 11 points in the fourth quarter. Webber finished with 29 points and Mawell had a season-high 25 points.
Maxwell, who played for the Rockets from 1990-95, was more active on the court than in the postgame locker room.
"This is not home for me," Maxwell shrugged. "We came out and lost the game so it really doesn't matter. I don't care what happens. I just play my game. I'm the same old Vernon."
Barkley, however, credited Maxwell with getting the Kings back in the game.
"Vernon Maxwell shot them back in it," Barkley said. "It would be nice to win by 20 every night but it's not going to happen."
The Rockets started the third quarter with a 61-50 lead and quickly went on a 15-4 run for a 76-54 lead. Houston led 86-69 starting the fourth quarter.
It turned out that the Kings' comeback just wasn't good enough.
"I just don't know what to say," Webber said. "They got a big lead and we couldn't come back." Notes: The Rockets have won seven straight games in Compaq Center. ... Barkley is averaging 12.4 rebounds and 20 points in the last six games. ... The Kings lead the NBA with 99.0 points per game. ... Webber has 61 rebounds in the last four games, including 11 Monday night. ... The Rockets activated Antoine Carr prior to the game and placed Matt Maloney on the injured list with a sore right elbow. ... Sacramento's Predrag Stojakovic sprained his left ankle in the first half and did not return.
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