Rockets 104, Knicks 96

Even without two starters, the Houston Rockets are climbing out

of the hole they dug to start the season.

The New York Knicks seem headed toward continuing their recent

holiday tradition of being hopelessly behind by Thanksgiving.

Kevin Martin scored 28 points, Luis Scola added 24, and the

Rockets sent the Knicks to their fifth straight loss with a 104-96

victory on Sunday night.

Courtney Lee had 12 for the Rockets, who have won two straight

and three of four after opening the season with five straight

losses. Even without injured starters Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks,

they beat the Knicks for the 13th time in 15 meetings.

”It was a good road trip for us,” Martin said. ”We’re going

through a lot right now. Two of our top four players are out right

now and we thought we were going to have them beginning of the year

and find chemistry early, but now we’re going to have to rely on

whoever we have at the moment.”

Amare Stoudemire scored 25 points for the Knicks, who were

loudly booed in the fourth quarter. After blowing a 21-point lead

Friday in Minnesota, when they were on the wrong end of Kevin

Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound performance, they missed their first

eight shots in the final period to turn this game into a rout.

”I don’t understand why we’re not playing with the urgency,” a

visibly dejected Stoudemire said. ”I’m not used to that. We don’t

have that sense of urgency. It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter.

That’s something I’m not used to.

”I try to instill the fact that we have to play with sense of

urgency. It’s not like we won four games in a row, we lost four

games in a row. We just still are not having the sense of urgency.

We’re not showing that we really want it.”

New York (3-7) starts a four-game trip out West on Tuesday in

Denver, in danger of quickly falling out of the race in a season

that began with optimism after the signing of Stoudemire.

”Obviously nobody wants to lose and everybody is pressing,”

coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”The reality is we’re 3-7 and we’ve got

a game on Tuesday. So you just try to figure out what’s going

wrong, how can you get a little bit better, who to play in the

rotations and hit it on Tuesday. At this point that’s all we can

do.”

Ish Smith’s jumper at the buzzer gave Houston an 84-75 lead

after three, and the boos were out when Martin was all alone for a

fast-break layup after a Knicks miss to open the scoring in the

fourth.

Lee’s 3-pointer pushed it to 89-75, and the Rockets were

rolling. Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari each managed a free throw

before Scola’s jumper started a run of nine straight points that

put it away at 96-77 midway through the period before the Knicks

finally ended their drought on Landry Fields’ follow dunk with 5:39

remaining.

Reserve center Chuck Hayes, who helped slow Stoudemire after his

strong start, said the Rockets could see the frustration in the

Knicks.

”It happens to every team,” he said. ”You get frustrated.

Everybody starts pointing fingers. Once you get a team like that,

you have them with their backs against the wall, you want to keep

them like that.”

The Rockets knew the early season could be a struggle as they

figured the best way to use Yao, who is on a minutes restriction

after returning from a year off with a foot injury. Things seemed

to get even worse when Brooks, then Yao, went down with their

sprained left ankles, but Houston is as accustomed as any team to

having to get by without key parts.

”Welcome to my life the last five years as a member of the

Houston Rockets,” veteran Shane Battier said. ”We have not been

blessed with health. So you get a certain sort of mentality when

you come here and you learn real quick that there’s not a lot of

excuses or pity when guys get injured or go down. Next man in line

and you better perform.”

Wilson Chandler scored 17 points for the Knicks, who got 15 from

Raymond Felton, 14 from Gallinari and 12 from Fields.

Stoudemire scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first

quarter as the Knicks took a 27-26 lead. The Rockets controlled the

second, getting 10 points from Martin en route to a 58-52 halftime

lead.

Notes: Former lottery pick Jordan Hill, traded by the Knicks to

the Rockets in a cap-clearing move as part of the Tracy McGrady

deal, raced by the Knicks for two fast-break dunks in the second

quarter. … The Rockets were without reserve Chase Budinger, who

sprained his left ankle Friday in a victory at Indiana. … Knicks

F/C Ronny Turiaf missed his third straight game with a sprained

left knee. D’Antoni hopes he can return Tuesday, and it’s possible

he could start when he does. … Knicks reserve guard Roger Mason

Jr. played for just the second time in the last seven games.