Rockets-Kings Preview

The Houston Rockets won’t advance to the playoffs for the first

time in four seasons, but they’ve been playing at a high level

lately.

Playing their final road game, the Rockets look to clinch their

fourth straight winning season Monday night when they face the

Sacramento Kings.

Out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06, Houston

(41-39) was on the verge of winning its fourth straight Sunday, but

were outscored 14-0 by Phoenix in a late fourth-quarter run and

fell 116-106. The Rockets’ previous two wins were against

playoff-bound Utah and Charlotte.

“You can just look at the West and see – that team is a quality

team and they’re not going to make the playoffs,” Suns coach Alvin

Gentry said of Houston. “They’re a real quality team.”

The Rockets, though, have lost two of three to Sacramento

(25-55) this season, including a 109-100 defeat in their only visit

to Arco Arena on Nov. 13.

Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans, who scored 20 points in that matchup,

is 24 shy of becoming just the fourth rookie in NBA history to

average 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists. The others were

Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Evans is averaging 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in

two games versus the Rockets. He missed a 113-106 loss in Houston

on Nov. 21 with a sprained middle finger and sore ankle.

Despite the Kings losing nine of 10 to fall into the Pacific

Division basement with Golden State, forward Carl Landry has been a

bright spot for Sacramento. Acquired from Houston in February as

part of a nine-player deal that sent Kevin Martin to the Rockets,

Landry is averaging 18.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 26 games with

his new team.

Sacramento, though, has just two games remaining – and one at

home – before Landry’s year is over and a fourth straight season

passes without the Kings in the playoffs.

“I never want the season to come to an end,” Landry told the

Kings’ official Web site following Saturday’s 126-108 loss to

Dallas. “I wish that we could go to the playoffs like I did the

last two years in Houston, but at the same time I can look at it as

a positive. I have more time to become a better player for next

year and help this ballclub get to where we need to go.”

In his first game in Houston since the deal, Landry had 22

points and 10 boards in an 84-81 victory on March 3.

Martin scored 13 in that matchup, and is averaging 20.3 points

on 42.2 percent shooting since the trade. According to Rockets

coach Rick Adelman, Martin was limited to six minutes in the second

half Sunday due to illness.

Rockets forward Luis Scola had 30 points with eight rebounds

Sunday, and is averaging 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds versus the

Kings this season.

Houston’s last losing season was 2005-06 when it finished

34-48.