Rockets top Knicks in 1st game since McGrady deal
Instead, the day belonged to the players the Houston Rockets acquired when they shipped McGrady out.
The Rockets acquired Martin from Sacramento, and Hill and Jeffries from New York last month in a three-team deal at the trade deadline. The two big men played bigger roles than usual because of injuries and illnesses to Houston’s frontcourt.
“When you have a part, a hand in your team winning, especially against a former team, it’s always fun,” Jeffries said.
Hill finished with a season-high 13 points, while Jeffries, who had been the Knicks’ best defensive player, stepped in to take some crucial charges in the final quarter.
“I was trying to find anybody who wanted to guard somebody. He did a great job when he came in,” Houston coach Rick Adelman said of Jeffries. “I just thought his length, he could guard (Al) Harrington, he could guard Tracy. He did a great job.”
Aaron Brooks(notes) scored seven straight points in the closing minutes and finished with 16 for the Rockets, who rebounded from Friday’s loss to Boston and won for the fifth time in six games. Reserves Kyle Lowry(notes) and Chase Budinger(notes) each scored 18 as Houston won despite getting little from ailing forward Luis Scola(notes), then losing Shane Battier(notes) to a first-half knee injury.
McGrady finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes, but was scoreless in the fourth. He missed all three shots after asking to re-enter to play 5 minutes in the final period, even though he was already over his average of about 25 a game.
“When you play with some of those guys for five, six years, you definitely want to go out there and compete against them and show them up a little bit,” McGrady said.
David Lee(notes) had 27 points and 20 rebounds for the Knicks, who blew an early 17-point lead. Danilo Gallinari(notes) and Toney Douglas(notes) each scored 26, with Douglas making a franchise rookie-record six 3-pointers in the best game of his career.
Houston trailed by three before Brooks’ 3-pointer with 2:15 to go. After McGrady was short on a jumper, Brooks broke the tie with a floater with 1:49 left, then made it 114-110 with just under a minute remaining by knocking down a long jumper.
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni blamed his team’s poor transition defense.
“We did not get back and that’s where you lose the game,” he said. “You can’t control a call here and there. You can’t control Aaron Brooks making those big shots, which they were hard shots. But you can control getting back. We didn’t get back. We did that in the second quarter and we did it in the fourth, right at the end of the game. It cost us.”
The three-team deal also sent the Knicks’ 2012 first-round pick to Houston. Moving Jeffries’ $6.9 million salary was the key for the Knicks, giving them about $32 million, tops in the league, in salary cap space this summer. The Rockets were able to land a coveted scorer in Martin, whom they envision playing alongside Yao Ming(notes) next season.
McGrady was a perennial All-Star but frequently injured in Houston. He had microfracture knee surgery in February 2009 and returned in December, but the Rockets played him only sparingly for six games before deciding he wouldn’t be in the rotation, then allowing him to leave the team and work out on his own while they explored a trade.
Adelman said McGrady is still one of the best passers and playmakers in the league, but said the former scoring champion just couldn’t help the Rockets when he returned.
“He wasn’t ready to play. It’s a very simple explanation,” Adelman said before the game. “He missed the year before, he came back and he wanted to come back and play, but last year we played him on one leg and we had Yao and we had Ron Artest(notes) and we were able to do that for a while and get by. But this year it was really hard to put him out there and play him when he really wasn’t ready.”
McGrady was active early, playing the entire first quarter and finishing with eight points and five rebounds in helping New York take a 32-17 lead. Houston charged back in the second, using a 12-0 run midway through the period to grab a one-point lead on Hill’s basket. The Knicks took a 64-62 lead into halftime.
Both teams shot at least 60 percent in the third quarter, which ended with New York leading 94-92.
NOTES: Battier missed the second half after hyperextending his left knee late in the second quarter. … McGrady also picked up a technical foul for complaining about a foul with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter. … Bothered by an upset stomach, Scola was limited to four points and one rebound in 22 1/2 minutes. He averaged 23.9 points and 13.0 rebounds in the previous eight games.