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Scola hits 20 of 25 shots to keep Rockets playoff hopes alive

HOUSTON -- Luis Scola glanced at the scoreboard during the second half of Saturday's game against New Jersey and the night he was having finally started to sink in.

Scola finished with a career-high 44 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and the Houston Rockets beat the Nets 116-108 to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.

Scola hit 20 of 25 shots, many of them open layups, and reached the highest point total by a Rockets player since Tracy McGrady scored 47 against Utah in November 2007.

"It was one of those nights where you're feeling good, but then everything you try, works," Scola said. "I'm probably as surprised as you are."

The Argentine forward had 32 points after three quarters -- already a career high -- and sneaked a peek at his stat line in the lights above him.

"Just for a moment, I looked up and saw 32 or 33 [points]," Scola said. "I was like, 'Whoa, that is good.'"

Kevin Martin scored 20, Aaron Brooks added 18 points and seven assists and Houston strung together consecutive victories for the first time since early February.

Scola seemed to slip inside for layups all night, and finished off the Nets with a straight-on jumper that put Houston up 103-93 with just over four minutes left. Scola hit 6 of 8 shots and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and got chest bumps from Brooks and forward Chuck Hayes after the final buzzer sounded.

"I'm not surprised," Brooks said. "He played for Argentina, and we've got the 'Argentina Luis' now, so it's pretty good."

Martin, traded from Sacramento on Feb. 18, said Scola's performance reminded him of a big night Carmelo Anthony once had against the Kings. Shane Battier, who came off the bench for the first time this season, went a step further.

"Luis was awesome," Battier said. "They're erecting statues of him in Buenos Aires as we speak."

Courtney Lee scored 24 and Brook Lopez added 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who finished a five-game road trip with four straight losses.

Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe pointed to Houston's 27-4 edge in second-chance points as the difference.

"We were a little tired and it was tough in the fourth quarter," Vandeweghe said. "They pulled away at the end, and the offensive rebounding killed us. The second-chance points really hurt."

The 7-foot Lopez scored 10 of New Jersey's first 15 points and drew two quick fouls on Hayes, who was giving up six inches trying to guard him.

The Rockets hit eight of their first 10 shots, then missed five in a row, and the Nets took an eight-point lead. Houston mounted a 17-5 run to pull ahead, and the teams traded the lead 11 times for the rest of the half.

New Jersey shot 63 percent in the first half and led 55-54 at the break.

Scola had 16 in the opening half, then scored the first four baskets of the third quarter, all layups, to give the Rockets their biggest lead to that point.

"When I'm in the game, you can see I'm running all over the place, trying to touch all the loose balls," Scola said. "That's when I feel better. From then on, everything works well -- the shooting, the post-up, everything works better if I can get easy shots."

The Nets continued to shoot well, and Scola just beat the quarter buzzer with a layup to put Houston up 82-78. The basket pushed Scola over his previous career high (30), set against San Antonio on Feb. 26.

Houston led 89-85 when Trevor Ariza sank his first 3-pointer of the game and Scola flipped in a hook to stretch the lead to nine. Ariza made his first start since missing seven games with a hip pointer.

Game notes
The Rockets have won eight straight meetings with New Jersey. ... Brooks sank a 3-pointer late in the first half, tying a franchise record by hitting a 3 for the 37th consecutive game. Brooks' streak of games with a 3-pointer is the longest active one in the NBA. ... Scola has five straight double-doubles and 26 this season. ... Devin Harris picked up his 500th career steal in the first half. ... Harris scored 19 and Jarvis Hayes added 16 off the bench for New Jersey.