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Kings-Rockets Preview

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After some initial struggles, Kevin Martin appears to have found his place in the Houston Rockets' offense in time for his first game against the team that traded him two weeks ago.

One of the headliners in a blockbuster deal at February's trade deadline, Martin looks to continue his surge for the Rockets on Wednesday night when he faces the Sacramento Kings for the first time.

Houston (30-29) acquired Martin from Sacramento on Feb. 18 in a three-team trade that sent Tracy McGrady from the Rockets to New York.

Martin averaged 15.3 points and shot 31.0 percent from the field in his first three games with Houston, all losses. However, the prolific shooting guard has scored 31.0 points per game and shot 50.9 percent to lead the Rockets to two wins in their last three contests.

Martin had 28 points while going 9 for 16 from the field overall and 5 for 8 from 3-point range in a 116-92 home win over Toronto on Monday night.

The Kings (20-40) know all about what Martin can do. They drafted the unheralded player out of Western Carolina with the 26th pick in 2004, and though they made the playoffs only twice in his five full seasons with the team, he led them in scoring three times and emerged as one of the most dangerous perimeter shooters in the NBA.

Martin admitted he's excited about facing his former club, but said showing the Kings what they lost isn't his top priority.

"It will be emotional, but it's not like I'll be out there trying to get them and it's a one-man show," Martin told the Rockets' official Web site.

Martin's more focused on getting Houston into the playoffs. The Rockets are currently ninth in the Western Conference, four games behind eighth-place Portland.

"What we're trying to accomplish here is much bigger than Kevin playing Sacramento," Martin said. "We've got bigger goals and bigger expectations here, so I'm just trying to get back to being a great player and hopefully we have a big month. I'm not worrying about one game - we treat every team the same."

New Kings forward Carl Landry would probably say the same, but he has a personal stake in this game as well. Landry was a leading sixth man of the year candidate while averaging 16.1 points and 5.5 rebounds with Houston before getting sent to Sacramento in the Martin trade. He's averaging 16.0 points as a starter with the Kings.

"(Landry is) a great player and it's going to be a fun challenge for us to try to stop him," said Rockets forward Luis Scola, Landry's teammate with Houston since the duo entered the league in 2007. "A big part of a victory (Wednesday) will be making him less effective."

Landry's Houston homecoming comes on the heels of Sacramento's 113-107 loss at Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. Tyreke Evans, whose strong rookie season helped make Martin expendable, had 27 points, six rebounds and five assists, but the Kings allowed Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to combine for 69 points.

The Rockets and Kings have split their first two meetings this season. Beno Udrih had 22 points and Evans added 20 as the Kings took a 109-100 home win Nov. 13. Scola had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Rockets 113-106 in the rematch Nov. 21, Houston's sixth straight home win in the series.

Rockets guard Trevor Ariza, who has missed four straight games with a hip injury, isn't expected to return to face the Kings.

Tagged: Rockets, Knicks, Kings, Thunder, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Martin, Beno Udrih, Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, Kevin Durant, Luis Scola, Russell Westbrook

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