for this game

Rockets' second-half surge scorches Knicks

Jan 11, 2009 - 4:56 AM By Ted Dunnam PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Even without Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest, the Houston Rockets were too much for the New York Knicks.

Luis Scola's 18 points led five players in double figures as the shorthanded Rockets used a third-quarter outburst to defeat the Knicks, 96-76, on Saturday night.

"We stayed up on the shooters, and we had to watch (David) Lee rolling to the basket," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We were getting after their guys for the most part. Actually, the only time we gave them shots was when we got too far off people and gave them room."

The Knicks missed their first 13 shots of the third quarter while Houston produced a flurry of offense to take control. Tim Thomas finally ended the drought with a 3-pointer for the Knicks' first basket of the period with 4:10 left, but by that time the Rockets had sprinted to a 61-46 lead.

The Rockets eventually held a 77-59 advantage after three quarters and opened as much as a 23-point lead in the final session. The sixth-highest-scoring team in the league, the Knicks scored just 31 points in the second half.

"We did not get great shots," Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Our ball movement wasn't good at all. It sapped our fire and then they got energy. A lot of times when you miss eight or nine shots in a row, it really saps you and makes it tough to come back. ... We have to learn how to play basketball and sometimes we regress."

Rafer Alston added 17 points for Houston, Aaron Brooks 16, Von Wafer 15 and Yao Ming 14. Scola also pulled down 11 rebounds.

"This is the second one all year to win by that wide of a margin," Alston said. "It was good that we were able to start playing defense. In the second half, we really defended well. ... We've won three in a row and Boston was the starter. We showed ourselves that we can play with the best."

Thomas paced New York with 18 points, Nate Robinson scored 17 and David Lee finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

"When you're down 20, it's really tough to mount a comeback," Robinson said. "We've not been making our shots, and we have to stay positive and keep the team together."

The Knicks led by as many as five points - 33-28 - in the opening half as Lee scored all of his points and Thomas added 10. New York held a 36-32 advantage in the second quarter when Houston went on a 10-0 run, highlighted by two tip-ins by Yao and Wafer's 3-pointer.

The Knicks battled back from that 42-36 deficit to take a 45-44 lead on Lee's dunk, but Yao hit a baseline jumper just before the halftime buzzer to give the Rockets a 46-45 edge.

McGrady suffers from soreness in his left knee, partly as a result of offseason surgery. This was the fourth time McGrady sat out the second half of a back-to-back game for the Rockets, who opened a five-game homestand. Artest sat out due to a sprained right ankle.

The Knicks, who shot 35 percent (29-of-82), lost for the third straight time on this four-game trip that ends in New Orleans on Monday. They have lost 13 straight games in Texas since a win in Houston on November 18, 2004.

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