HOUSTON – Kevin Martin scored 21 points, Chuck Hayes matched his season high with 17 rebounds and the Houston Rockets never trailed in a 94-78 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
Chase Budinger scored 19 and rookie Patrick Patterson added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who began the night in 11th place in the West, three games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot.
D.J. Augustin scored 22 and Boris Diaw added 13 for the Bobcats, who've lost nine of the last 11 meetings with Houston. Charlotte came into the game one-half game behind Indiana in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Bobcats went cold after shooting 53 percent in the first quarter. They finished 29 for 78 (37 percent) from the field, after leading scorer Stephen Jackson went 2 for 14 from the field.
Charlotte missed its first 10 shots after halftime, before Jackson scored inside with 7:23 left in the quarter, his first field goal in 11 attempts. Martin swished a 3-pointer a minute later to push the lead to 57-43.
Kyle Lowry finished a fast break with a layup, and Budinger threw an alley-oop pass to Patterson for a dunk as the Rockets built an 18-point lead. The Bobcats answered with a 10-0 run, but Houston still led 68-57 after three quarters.
The teams combined to go 14 for 47 from the field and gave away eight turnovers in the sloppy third.
Shaun Livingston cut inside for two baskets to draw Charlotte within six with seven minutes left. Hayes scored inside, then threw a long pass to Lee for another dunk to extend the lead back to 10, at 80-70.
Later, the Rockets grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds on long misses, and ran nearly a minute off the clock before Hayes scored inside for an 87-74 lead.
Lee finished off Charlotte with a jumper from the wing a minute later.
NOTES: The Rockets never trailed for the sixth time this season. ... Charlotte has lost its last six road games against Western Conference opponents. ... Bobcats C Joel Przybilla missed his fourth straight game with soreness in his right knee. Coach Paul Silas said the 7-foot-1 Przybilla will also skip Friday's game at Oklahoma City and Saturday's game in San Antonio. ... Houston F Luis Scola sat out for the fourth consecutive game with a sore left knee. ... Hayes' rebound total was one shy of his career high.