Martin, Lowry Rocket-ing toward playoffs

Kevin Martin

MartinKevin Martin scored 34 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 110-108 win over the Utah Jazz, moving them within two-and-a-half games of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Martin was 18-for-18 from the free-throw line, the most free throws without a miss by a Rockets player in the past 25 seasons.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the eighth time in Martin’s career that he shot 15-for-15 or better from the foul line, tying Dolph Schayes for the second-most such games in NBA history. Oscar Robertson did it 11 times.

Martin’s teammate Kyle Lowry chipped in 28 points, a career-high 11 rebounds, and 10 assists for his first career triple-double. It’s the fifth-highest point total in a triple-double in the NBA this season.

Lowry has scored in double figures in 12 straight games, which is double his previous career-long streak. Lowry had just one turnover; he entered the day ninth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (minimum 125 assists).

The Rockets have won 11 of their past 14 games, moving from 12th to ninth in the Western Conference standings, and have cut their deficit in half in that span.

Speaking of the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a playoff spot when the Utah Jazz lost Sunday, then clinched the Pacific Division crown with their win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers remain in second place in the Western Conference, a game in front of the Dallas Mavericks, who clinched their 11th straight playoff appearance with a win over the Golden State Warriors.

The Mavericks allowed a season-low 73 points in their 28-point victory, and held the Warriors to 10 points in the fourth quarter (previous low: 12). Elias tells us that Dallas had been one of only three teams without a 20-point win this season, along with the New Jersey Nets (22-46) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-55).

The Boston Celtics, having clinched a playoff spot days earlier, clinched the Atlantic Division title when the New York Knicks lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. Milwaukee outscored the Knicks 32-9 in the first quarter. The nine points were the fewest scored by the Knicks in any quarter under head coach Mike D’Antoni.