Roger Mason leads Hornets past Rockets, 88-77

New Orleans Hornets center Robin Lopez, right, hands the ball to shooting guard Eric Gordon, left, as Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden, center, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
New Orleans Hornets center Robin Lopez, right, hands the ball to shooting guard Eric Gordon, left, as Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden, center, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

NEW ORLEANS — Roger Mason’s first 3-pointer, near the end of the third quarter, was ruled a two-point shot after the quarter ended in Wednesday night’s game against the Houston Rockets.

As if Mason needed any incentive. Mired on the bench the past two games with Eric Gordon getting more and more playing time, Mason sank three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, fueling a 17-2 run that propelled the New Orleans Hornets to an 88-79 victory — their season-high third in a row.

“I didn’t play much in the first half, but to be a good pro, you have to always be ready,” said Mason, who didn’t play in the big win Monday against San Antonio and played just five minutes in the previous game at Dallas. “God gave me the strength to hit some shots. I knew that the law of percentages would catch up, and I was able to hit some shots that I know I can hit. I just keep working, staying in the gym, and I feel good.”

In a game in which Gordon scored just five points on 2-of-12 shooting, 3-point ace Ryan Anderson went scoreless and rookie standout Anthony Davis had just six points, Mason made 17 — including 15 in a furious fourth quarter by the Hornets (10-25), who had 29 points in the fourth. Mason alone outscored the Rockets 15-10 in the fourth.

Houston (10-25) had won five in a row coming into the game.

The points and the three 3-pointers are a season-high for Mason, a 10-year veteran in his first season with the team. The Hornets entered the quarter 1-of-13 on 3s.

Mason’s barrage actually started with 1:09 left in the third. He sank what was counted as a 3-pointer that cut the Rockets’ lead to 64-60. The quarter ended with Houston leading 69-60, until Mason’s shot was corrected, giving the Rockets a 10-point lead.

However, he was just getting started. He sank consecutive jump shots within 26 seconds, then made a 3-pointer one minute later that cut Houston’s lead to 69-68 and touched off the outburst by the Hornets.

Mason sank his second 3 at 6:30, giving the Hornets the lead for good, 73-71. Gordon drove and passed to point guard Greivis Vasquez, who, perhaps inspired by Mason, sank a 3 for a 76-71 lead then skipped down the court as the Rockets called timeout.

Mason dropped in his final 3 with 4:18 showing for an 81-71 lead, and the Hornets held on the rest of the way, beating a Southwest Division foe for the third straight game and winning the second of a three-game home stand.

“If you would have told me Ryan wouldn’t score and Eric would get five points and we would win, I wouldn’t have believed you,” coach Monty Williams said. “But when you play defense like we did, it gives you a chance. And Roger came in and hit some big shots and also played good defense.”

After a pedestrian first half in which the Rockets led 36-34, they pulled away with a 13-4 run to start the third quarter, leading 49-38 after Chandler Parsons sank a 3-pointer.

With a one-minute, 7-2 burst, the Hornets finally closed to 64-59 with 1:19 left. However, guard/forward Carlos Delfino sank a 3-pointer and Toney Douglas got a fast-break layup off a half-court bounce pass from James Harden, and the Rockets had their 10-point lead heading into the final quarter.

Mason had plenty of help in this big victory — another game the Hornets likely would have lost before Gordon returned and the team got back its full lineup after some injuries.

Like Mason, backup center/power forward Jason Smith and Vasquez also had 17 points. Smith continued his strong, aggressive play off the bench, and had three blocked shots and 10 rebounds, tied with small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Houston’s Patrick Patterson for game high.

Vasquez was a force all game while his teammates struggled, and also had 11 assists. Farouq pulled down double-figure rebounds for the third game in a row, and four were on the offensive end.

Harden had bedeviled the Hornets for three quarters, scoring 22 points. However, he scored just three in the fourth. And, the Hornets battled the Rockets even in the lane, both teams scoring 36 points. The Rockets outscored the Hornets in the lane 60-28 in the lane in the Jan. 2 game won by Houston.