CHRIS DUNCAN,AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Playing for the fourth time in five nights, the exhaustion was finally starting to set in for Samuel Dalembert.
The nine-year veteran drew on his experience and finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes to lead Houston to a 97-80 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night, giving the Rockets their fourth straight win.
“At some point, there’s back and forth, you start to get a little fatigued a little bit,” said the 30-year-old Dalembert, who signed with the Rockets less than a week before the season began. “And then you just say, ‘Hey.’ You tell yourself you keep lying to those legs,” he said. “You lie to them. You say, ‘Hey, you have five more minutes.’”
Houston coach Kevin McHale was able to rest his other starters in the fourth quarter, as the Rockets’ reserves maintained a comfortable lead.
Luis Scola also scored 14 and Kyle Lowry had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Rockets, who outrebounded the Pistons 42-35 to overcome 21 turnovers.
“It’s a short season, but a long season at the same time,” said Lowry, who played 30 minutes after playing 32 in Washington on Monday. “There are going to be these types of games, where you have four games in five nights. We need everybody to contribute and come out and give us something every night.”
Tayshaun Prince scored 20 points, Ben Gordon had 18 and Rodney Stuckey added 16 off the bench for the Pistons, who’ve dropped eight of nine.
Detroit coach Lawrence Frank was encouraged by long stretches of play by his team. But the Pistons could not overcome their 20 turnovers or the rebound disparity.
“We pieced together about 38 good minutes,” he said. “We have to defend, rebound and keep down our turnovers. We did parts of those things, at times.”
The Pistons missed six of their first seven shots as the Rockets built an early lead. Frank was hoping to strengthen his team’s interior defense by starting Ben Wallace, but Dalembert had three dunks in the first 9 minutes.
Wallace blocked three shots, but did not score in 19 minutes.
Chandler Parsons swooped in for another slam, and Lowry cut inside for a layup as the Rockets used a 13-2 spurt to take a 24-10 lead. Houston helped Detroit with six turnovers in the quarter, and the Pistons cut the deficit to eight by the start of the second.
The Rockets got sloppy again just before halftime, and the Pistons closed the gap to 42-38. Lowry made a 3 in the final 30 seconds of the half, and Houston led 47-40 at the break.
Lowry hit three 3s in the game, and Houston finished 8 for 19 from beyond the arc.
Detroit missed 12 of its first 16 shots in the third quarter, and the Rockets stretched the margin to 62-49. Houston has held double-digit leads in seven consecutive games, its longest streak since the 2008-09 season.
The Rockets controlled the boards early in the fourth quarter to preserve a comfortable lead. Backup point guard Goran Dragic turned two steals into breakaway layups to extend the gap to 80-66 with just under 7 minutes left.
“That kind of opened the floodgates after that,” McHale said.
Dragic found a cutting Parsons for a two-handed dunk with 2:45 remaining to make it 89-72. Dragic sank a 3-pointer a minute later to give Houston its biggest lead of the game, 92-74.
The Rockets improved to 5-1 at home, and 4-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season. Houston also evened their record after a 3-7 start, a modest goal that the coaches had talked about reaching before the game.
“We are back to .500, which is where we wanted to be after a bit of a slow start,” Scola said. “I think the best thing is that we are playing better. This is the way we have to keep going.”
NOTES: Houston has won 17 consecutive games when holding its opponent below 90 points. … Dalembert recorded his second double-double of the season. … Rockets G Courtney Lee returned after sitting out eight games with a right calf strain. F Jordan Hill left with flu-like symptoms and did not return. … Wallace made his first start of the season at power forward, replacing Jonas Jerebko. Frank says he’ll try the switch for “a period of games.” … Pistons G Will Bynum sat out for the second straight game with a strained right foot. … The Pistons are 0-10 when trailing after the first quarter, and 0-11 when trailing after three quarters this season.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)