The Houston Rockets return home fresh off their best offensive performance of the season. It's what the Rockets have done off the court, however, that's generating more buzz ahead of Saturday night's visit from the Indiana Pacers.
Four players, acquired in a three-team deal Thursday, are expected to make their Houston debut against Indiana. Headlining that group is shooting guard Kevin Martin, who will reunite with former coach Rick Adelman.
"He's a unique scorer and that allows the team to function a little bit with all the roles becoming a little bit more defined," general manager Daryl Morey said.
The Rockets (28-25) also got Hilton Armstrong from Sacramento, where Martin was averaging 19.8 points during an injury-shortened campaign. To complete the nine-player trade, Houston sent former All-Star swingman Tracy McGrady to New York for Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill, and shipped second-leading scorer Carl Landry (16.1 ppg) and Joey Dorsey to the Kings.
"This deal is about putting a team together, players who can help us now and in the future," Morey said. "We're excited about how this sets us up for now and especially in the next year."
Part of Martin's appeal is his familiarity with Adelman's offense. Adelman coached Martin for two seasons in Sacramento, helping the previously unheralded player break out as a No. 1 scoring option.
"Adelman and his staff, they always bring out the best in their players, and that's what they did with me four or five years ago," said Martin, the 26th overall pick out of Western Carolina in 2004. "I'm excited to take on that role again."
As rumors of an imminent deal swirled the night before the trade deadline, Houston avoided a season-high fourth straight loss by blowing out Milwaukee 127-99. The Rockets matched their best shooting performance over the last four seasons by shooting 58.3 percent, and they made 16 3-pointers to fall one shy of tying the franchise record.
That performance and Martin's arrival appear to bode well for the Rockets' chances at a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. They're currently ninth in the tightly packed Western Conference standings.
Facing a Pacers team that's dropped four straight and is 6-21 on the road this season could help.
Indiana, however, swept last season's series, with Danny Granger's tip-in with 13 seconds remaining lifting the Pacers to a 91-90 win at the Toyota Center.
Granger enters this trip to Houston averaging 26.3 points over the past three games. He scored 29 in Friday night's 107-101 loss to New Orleans, the opener of a four-game trip.
In its third straight road loss, Indiana (18-36) nearly overcame a 21-point first-half deficit, but the rally fell short as the Pacers could only pull within four in the final minute.
The Pacers have endured seven skids of three games or more this season.
"We have to develop some consistency," Granger said. "We've been battling with that all year. We haven't gotten a handle on that, but when we do we will win more games than we lose."
Martin has averaged 28.8 points in his last six matchups with the Pacers, but he missed the Kings' 110-105 victory Dec. 2 because of a broken left wrist.