Hakeem Olajuwon got the Houston Rockets going early and Scottie Pippen took over for him in the second half.
Olajuwon continued his resurgence with 24 points, 15 in the first half, and Pippen scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half as the Houston Rockets escaped with a 100-89 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday night.
"Our game plan was to go inside and when the double and triple teams come, take what the defense will give you," Olajuwon said. "I'm progressing as the season progresses and I'm feeling more comfortable. "
The Rockets built a 54-36 halftime lead on a strong start by Olajuwon but for the second consecutive game, the Rockets couldn't put its opponent away. The Rockets had a big lead against Vancouver on Thursday before struggling to a 102-91 victory.
Olajuwon, who struggled at the beginning of the season, has averaged 25.2 points over the past four games. Over those four games, Olajuwon has hit 56 percent from the field.
"I thought we did a very good job of executing our offense when they were double-teaming," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We made the outside shots, but we also swung the ball around the horn and got a mismatch on the weak side."
Cedric Henderson hit Cleveland's first three baskets of the third quarter and led a 16-5 spurt that cut Houston's lead to 59-52 with 7:32 left in the quarter.
The Rockets never trailed but Cleveland got within four points twice, the last at 84-80 with 5:53 to play on a basket by Bob Sura.
"I'm happy the way we bounced back in the second half," Cavaliers coach Mike Fratello said. "We got it down to four point but every time we got it down to that it seemed like Scottie came up with a big play and we wouldn't get over the hump."
With Houston leading by 84-80, Brent Price hit a 3-pointer and two fee throws and Cuttino Mobley's shot made it 91-80 for the Rockets.
"It was still a very disappointing game on our part," Pippen said. "I felt we sort of cheated our bench. This was a game which we should have taken care of early, but we just didn't come out and play the second half the way we should have. It was just a poor performance on our part."
"We had to gut it out at the end."
Pippen also had 10 assists and eight rebounds and Charles Barkley finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Pippen's former teammate Michael Jordan watched the game at courtside with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander.
Shawn Kemp led the Cavaliers with 25 points and Derek Anderson had 23.
Olajuwon got off to a hot start for the second consecutive game with 10 first quarter points on 5-for-7 shooting and led a 13-0 run that put the Rockets in control early.
Othella Harrington had eight points in a 13-4 Rockets run in the second quarter helping the Rockets to their 18-point halftime lead.
Notes: The Rockets hold a 36-11 home court advantage over the Cavaliers. ... Charles Barkley needed one assist to reach the 4,000 career level and join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to have at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. Barkley had six assists in the game for a 4,005 career total. ... The Cavaliers entered the game leading the NBA with 25.4 free throws per game and they also led the league with 33.1 attempts.
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