On a night when the Houston Rockets were hitting shots from midcourt, quard Kenny Smith said it still came down to defense.
"Defensive pressure made the difference in the fourth quarter," Smith said after Houston snapped the Seattle SuperSonics' five-game winning streak with a 97-93 victory on Monday night. "When the game is close we know what to do to win."Houston outscored Seattle 20-14 in the final period, 12 points coming on free throws.
Otis Thorpe had 28 points and 14 rebounds to help keep alive the Rockets' Midwest Division championship hopes.
His 45-foot bank shot at the end of the third quarter capped a 6-0 run as Houston closed to 79-77 after three periods. The 6-foot-10 forward then scored the go-ahead basket with 6:05 left in the game.
Buck Johnson, Rockets' starting small forward, also hit a desperation shot, a 55-footer at the end of the second period.
The Rockets equaled a franchise high of 51 victories and tied the Utah Jazz for second place in the Midwest Division.
Houston also crept to within one game of the San Antonio Spurs in the battle for the division title. The Rockets conclude a four-game road trip tonight at Portland against the Trail Blazers before returning home for a pivotal game Thursday against the Spurs.
The Sonics, who have won eight of their past 10 games, are one game behind the Golden State Warriors in the race for the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Sonics have road games remaining against the Utah Jazz on Thursday and Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. The Sonics entertain the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Golden State has three games remaining and a magic number of two to clinch the seventh spot.
With a chance to tie the Warriors, the Sonics faltered in the fourth quarter.
After Ricky Pierce's basket gave them an 81-77 lead, the Sonics went nearly five minutes without a point.