Rockets-Hornets Preview

Kevin Martin’s arrival didn’t immediately help the struggling

Houston Rockets, who have fallen out of playoff position in the

Western Conference.

They’ve also slipped behind the New Orleans Hornets, who hope to

close a four-game homestand with their first back-to-back wins in

nearly a month Sunday against the Rockets.

Houston (28-26) acquired Martin as part of a three-team trade

before Thursday’s deadline that featured the much-anticipated

departure of star Tracy McGrady, who hadn’t played since Dec.

23.

Martin, who was averaging 19.8 points for Sacramento, figures to

help a Houston offense that has shot 42.9 percent from the field

during a 4-8 stretch. The veteran guard didn’t help much in his

Rockets debut, shooting 3 of 16 on Saturday night in a 125-115 home

loss to Indiana.

At the same time, McGrady was busy scoring 26 points in his

first game with the New York Knicks.

“The one good thing about that night is that it is over,” Martin

said. “It was fun to get back out on the court again with

everything that happened over the last couple of days but we didn’t

come out with a win so I’m kind of disappointed in that

aspect.”

While Martin’s dismal shooting didn’t help, defense was the

bigger issue for the Rockets, who allowed the Pacers to score 71

second-half points and erase an 11-point halftime deficit.

“It was just a poor defensive effort on our part,” Houston coach

Rick Adelman said. “It’s not about shots. I don’t care about that.

… We aren’t going to do anything if we don’t have more of a

defensive habit toward the defensive end of the floor.”

Houston has allowed opponents to shoot 48.2 percent while

dropping four of its last five, slumping to 10th in the Western

Conference – one-half game behind the Hornets.

New Orleans (29-26) beat Indiana 107-101 on Friday night thanks

in part to the first career triple-double from rookie point guard

Darren Collison.

Filling in for injured star Chris Paul, Collison had 18 points,

13 rebounds and 12 assists. He’s averaging 19.7 points and 9.8

assists in nine games since entering the starting lineup Jan.

30.

“It means a lot,” Collison said of the triple-double. “I was

just going out there and playing and my teammates were just telling

me what I needed and being supportive. … I hope I have a lot more

in my career and I was fortunate to have one today. I was just

trying to help the team win.”

New Orleans also got a major boost from forward David West, who

scored 29 points in a bounce-back effort. West had a season-low

five points in a 98-90 home loss to Utah on Wednesday.

West said the Hornets – currently two games back of eighth-place

Portland – still feel like they can earn a third straight playoff

berth, even with Paul still on the mend following arthroscopic knee

surgery.

“As long as guys continue to play with confidence, we’re going

to have a shot to win the games in terms of what we have on the

schedule,” West said.

First, the Hornets will try to win two in a row for the first

time since victories at Portland and Golden State on Jan. 25 and

27. They’ve already beaten the Rockets once at home, snapping a

three-game losing streak to Houston with a 99-95 win Jan. 2.