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Struggling Nets fall to Rockets in Kidd's return

Dec 8, 2007 - 4:34 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Jason Kidd's return to the lineup on Friday could not ignite the New Jersey Nets' struggling offense.

Yao Ming had 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Houston Rockets led from start to finish en route to a 96-89 victory over the Nets at the Izod Center.

Tracy McGrady scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half for the Rockets, who opened up a 15-point halftime lead and led by at least seven points over the final three quarters of the contest.

"We played really well in the first half," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "They made a run at the start of the second half, and we responded. We just kind of kept them at bay. After they made the first three shots of the second half, we responded and got it back to double figures."

Kidd's return after a one-game absence could not help the New Jersey attack, which came into the game with the third-worst scoring offense in the league at 90.7 points per contest.

Kidd, who missed Wednesday's loss to the New York Knicks due to a migraine headache, had just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, with seven rebounds and seven assists as the Nets have lost seven of its last eight home games.

Reports had surfaced that Kidd was using his "illness" as a ploy to demand a trade or contract extension, which he then denied. The eight-time All-Star had just two points, two rebounds and three assists at the half, as Houston won for the fifth straight time in New Jersey.

"I feel better," Kidd said. "I think getting back out there was good. I tried everything I could tonight, but we ran into McGrady, who was on fire. Our guys kept playing hard, but we couldn't get over the hump."

McGrady scored 13 points in the opening period as the Rockets held a 28-18 lead after the first.

"Any time a team is struggling, you don't want to let them get caught up in the game and get confident," McGrady said. "Jason Kidd controls everything, and we didn't want that to happen, so we went at him right away. Our defense was pretty solid tonight, especially in the first half."

Houston ended the second quarter on a 9-2 run over the final 5:17 to take its largest lead of the first half, 48-33, at the break.

New Jersey shot just 35 percent (15-of-43) in the opening half, while Houston connected on 19-of-35 (54 percent) attempts from the field over that span.

"I won't question the effort," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "In the first half, we didn't do a great job of third and fourth defender help. I thought our guys were active. In the second half, we had a good attack on both ends.

"When you play good teams, you have to play at a higher level."

The Nets opened the second half on an 8-0 run as they closed within seven points, but the Rockets answered with a 13-4 run to take a 61-45 lead with 7:03 left in the third quarter.

Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson combined to score 26 of the Nets' 27 third-quarter points, but New Jersey still trailed, 72-60, entering the fourth.

The Nets trailed by nine midway through the fourth quarter, but Houston went on a 9-3 spurt to push its advantage up to 86-71 with 3:14 to play.

Carter scored a season-high 32 points and Jefferson added 29 for the Nets.

"We already know our offense is one of the worst in the league," Jefferson said. "It isn't necessarily the plays that we are running, but just our shooting percentages. I don't know why. Hopefully, this will be something we can figure out and move on from quickly.

"Maybe then we could go on a run, win some games in a row and start feeling good about ourselves."

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