for this game

Battier, Rockets clamp down on Nets

Dec 28, 2006 - 4:54 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Even without Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets can still play dominant defense.

Shane Battier made a career-high seven 3-pointers en route to 23 points as the Rockets shut down the reeling New Jersey Nets, 96-71.

Houston won for the first time in two games without leading scorer and rebounder Yao, who is sidelined at least six weeks with a fractured right leg. The Rockets entered the game allowing a league-low 90.2 points per game and had little trouble stopping the sluggish Nets.

New Jersey posted its second-lowest scoring game of the season, narrowly surpassing its season-low 68-point effort against Portland on November 18. The Nets had just 32 points in the second half and stumbled to their most lopsided loss of the season.

Battier helped contain New Jersey leading scorer Vince Carter, who was held to 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Richard Jefferson made just 5-of-15 shots en route to 11 points as the Nets were limited to a season-low 33 percent (24-of-73) from the floor.

"It's very frustrating because I feel like we're a better team than we are showing," Carter said. "Right now we are not capable of finding a way to win, or not able to, or not trying to. We have to play our way out of that."

Battier filled in the offensive void left by Yao. He eclipsed his previous career high of five 3-pointers - set four times including twice this season - and grabbed nine rebounds.

"Without the big fella down there, there are a lot more opportunities for everyone," Battier said. "We all have to do our part. It was one of those games when the shots that were there were falling. I can't say I was in the zone."

"I think it's more that he'll do whatever it takes to win that particular game," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said of Battier. "Some nights he gets more opportunities, sometimes he makes more shots, but you always get the same effort."

Tracy McGrady had 17 points in his second game since returning from a back injury and Juwan Howard collected 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Rockets, who held a 54-32 rebounding edge and overcame 24 turnovers.

"It's an anomaly to win like that," Van Gundy said. "The more we talk about it, the more we turn it over."

McGrady made just 4-of-16 shots but made all eight of his free throws and handed out six assists in 35 minutes.

"I feel a little better in the fourth quarter than I did (Tuesday at Indiana)," he said. "I'm still a little sluggish. It's going to take a little while. I'm just trying to get in shape while playing and it's tough."

Jason Kidd collected 11 points, six steals and five assists for the Nets, who have lost four consecutive games and six of their last eight.

"As a team the effort just wasn't there and that falls on everybody's shoulders," Kidd said. "This team has to do the small things and right now we're not doing that."

The teams combined for just 30 points in the first quarter, and Houston had a 20-16 lead one minute into the second before reeling off 10 straight points, including a pair of baskets from Howard.

The Rockets had a 49-39 cushion at halftime and the Nets did not get closer in the second half, making just 5-of-19 shots in the third quarter and 6-of-18 in the fourth.

Battier made two 3-pointers in the third quarter and two more in the fourth, giving the Rockets their largest lead at 89-62 on his final attempt from the arc with 5:20 remaining.

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