SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Martin made himself right at home in Arco Arena.
The former Sacramento forward traded 10 months ago scored 22 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Sacramento Kings 102-93 Sunday night.
“I love coming back to Sacramento and playing before fans who supported me for so many years,” Martin said. “They are trying to find their identity. They’re young. You can’t just look at them as a bad team. They have talent and when they figure it out they’re going to be pretty good.”
The victory was the fourth in five games for the Rockets, who learned earlier this week that Yao Ming would miss the rest of the season. The Rockets have won their last seven games at home, but won for only the fourth time this year on the road.
“We’re a confident bunch right now. December has been our turnaround month,” said Martin, who had three 3-pointers and made all seven free throws. “We’re in a nice little rhythm right now.”
DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Kings, who lost their fifth straight and 19th of 21 games.
Francisco Garcia and Tyreke Evans scored 14 points each and Carl Landry had 11 for the Kings. Sacramento is 3-11 at home this season and has the NBA’s worst record at 5-20.
“We’ve got to find a way to break this losing streak,” Francisco Garcia said. “I really don’t have an answer for it, but we’ve got to find a way to close as a team.”
Luis Scola had 17 points and nine rebounds and Kyle Lowry added 13 points and seven assists for Houston, which outscored the Kings 23-12 in the fourth quarter.
“We obviously haven’t learned the secret of winning basketball games in the fourth quarter to say the least,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “I could be off by one, but I think this is the six of our last eight games we’ve either had the lead or are right there with a chance to win the game in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.”
The Kings scored four points over the final 9:09 of the game. They shot 5 of 18 in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by three points, the Rockets ran off six straight points. Miller’s 3-point basket gave Houston a 93-89 lead at the 6:57 mark.
After Cousins got Sacramento to within a basket, Martin converted on a three-point play at the 1:54 mark to give the Rockets a 98-93 lead.
“We’ve been talking about raising our level of defense, so it was good to see us do that in the fourth quarter,” Lowry said. “We held them to 12 points in the fourth quarter by just playing harder and turning up our energy level.”
Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks returned Sunday for the first time since being injured against San Antonio in the fifth game of the season on Nov. 6. He entered the game in the first quarter and finished with nine points in 15 minutes.
Brooks, the NBA’s most improved player a year ago, had a stress fracture in his left ankle and missed 21 games.
Landry made a pair of jumpers and hit two free throws in the final 1:47 of the third quarter to help the Kings take an 81-79 lead into the fourth.
Despite shooting 38 percent in the first half, the Kings led 57-52. Garcia scored nine points and Cousins had nine points and four blocks for Sacramento. Martin scored 12 points for the Rockets and Scola had 11.
Notes: The Kings reached the playoffs in all eight seasons that Rick Adelman was their head coach. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since Aldeman was fired following the 2005-06 season. The Rockets have made the playoffs in two of Adelman’s three seasons. … Darnell Jackson made his first career start for the Kings, replacing Jason Thompson, who has seven stitches in his right ring finger. … Lowry committed four of Houston’s 12 first-half turnovers. … Houston is on a three-game road trip that concludes Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)