First, Scottie Pippen talked. Then he played.
Pippen complained over the weekend about not being involved in the offense and he broke out at a good time with 18 points and nine assists as the Houston Rockets held off the Portland Trail Blazers' fourth quarter charge for a 101-93 victory Tuesday night.
After a pre-game chat with coach Rudy Tomjanovich, Pippen took advantage of his chance.
"I was happy, we talked, that's all I'm going to say," Pippen said. "My style is to get started early. I got started early tonight. I liked to get started early and let the team feed off my energy."
In the first quarter, Pippen scored six points and took four shots, one less than he had the entire game Sunday against Phoenix.
For the game, he was 6-for-11 from the field, went 4-for-4 at the free-throw line and had eight rebounds.
"I think the guy is playing good," Tomjanovich said. "He's an all-around good players but I keep all those deals in the house."
Barkley also was mum about Pippen's comments.
"I'm not going to discuss Scottie's thing," Barkley said. "He's a grown man. I told him to keep that stuff in the locker room and he should have. I hit him with some good passes and he put it in." /P>
The Rockets led at 80-61 with 1:17 to go in the third quarter and by 91-76 with 5:59 to play.
The Trail Blazers' full-court pressure defense helped them cut Houston's lead to five points twice, the last at 97-92 with 1:19 to play on a basket by Rasheed Wallace.
Portland went 11 minutes, until 6:50 of the fourth quarter, without a basket and was forced to rely on defense and free throws during that stretch. The Blazers hit 12-of-14.
"I'm happy we won the game, but we've got to do a better job of finishing," Barkley said. "It's frustrating. We had a 20-point lead and let them come back. We've got to work on that. "
"We played well for three quarters but we didn't finish strong. They're the best team in the league. They just keep coming at your with big guys."
After fighting hard for a 54-51 halftime lead, the Rockets outscored the Trail Blazers 26-12 in the third quarter, capitalizing on technical fouls by Brian Grant, Wallace and coach Mike Dunleavy. Cuttino Mobley hit all three penalty shots.
"The third quarter was our downfall," Portland guard Damon Stoudamire said. "That's where Houston won the game. We had some technical fouls, illegal defenses and Houston made a lot of freebies and that was the tale of the game."
Stoudamire led Portland with 17 points and Walt Williams had 15.
- Barkley's first rebound made him the 15th player in NBA history to reach 12,000. He got nine and has 12,008 for his career.
- Grant leads Portland with nine double-doubles.
- The Trail Blazers were 9-of-16 from 3-point range, their second-best long-distance shooting of the season.
- Portland's 111-71 victory on March 7 was the largest margin of victory since the teams started playing in 1970-71. The Trail Blazers are 10-2 in the past 12 games.
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