Rockets-Warriors Preview

KATE HEDLIN

As bad as their leading scorer has been, the Houston Rockets are doing quite well on their longest road trip of the season thanks greatly to their bench.

The Rockets surely would like to see Kevin Martin rediscover his shooting touch as they go for a fourth straight win Sunday night when they face the Golden State Warriors.

Since opening this six-game trip with a 100-91 loss to Minnesota last Saturday, Houston (16-11) has won three in a row, including a 96-89 victory over Phoenix on Thursday.

Martin entered the road swing averaging 20.7 points but has been held to a combined 16 in the last four games, shooting 19.2 percent and missing all nine of his 3-point attempts.

His drop-off is part of coach Kevin McHale's overall concern about his starters not pulling their weight.

"We're going to have to get better, but we'll address that," McHale said of the starting five.

The Rockets reserves have picked up the slack. They outscored their Suns counterparts 57-13 on Thursday, led by 14 points from Patrick Patterson and 12 from Chase Budinger. Goran Dragic added 11 points and matched a career high with 11 assists.

Houston's second unit also keyed a 103-96 win at Portland the previous night with a 66-point performance.

All five players who came off the Rockets bench Thursday scored in double figures and they combined to shoot 59.5 percent, compared to 38.6 by the starters.

"Our bench has been amazing - simple as that," starter Kyle Lowry said. "Tonight every last one of them went over 50-percent shooting from the field. You can't ask for more than that."

Budinger is averaging 16.7 points and 5.3 rebounds during the win streak, going 10 for 19 from 3-point range. Patterson has 25 points and 13 rebounds over the last two games while shooting 11 of 15 from the field. Fellow reserve Courtney Lee has scored in double figures in a season-high three straight games.

Maybe a visit to Oracle Arena can help get Martin going. That's where he scored a career-high 50 points April 1, 2009, and he's averaged 28.3 in his last six games there.

Martin and the Rockets have not faced the Warriors since winning three of four meetings last season as he averaged 29.3 points.

Houston has won 12 of 13 against Golden State (9-14), including six of seven at Oracle Arena.

The Warriors avoided a third straight loss with a 109-101 victory at Denver on Wednesday behind Stephen Curry's season-high 36 points. He shot 13 of 17 overall, including 6 for 9 from 3-point range, to go with seven assists and seven rebounds.

"Just a spectacular night," coach Mark Jackson said. "When you look at that stat line it's a thing of beauty."

While Curry took care of things offensively, the Warriors received a solid team effort defensively. Ekpe Udoh had five of the team's season-high 14 blocks and Golden State held the Nuggets to 34.9-percent shooting over the second and third quarters. The Warriors had given up an average of 116.5 points in the previous two games.

"Coach ripped us at halftime about our effort," Curry said. "Our effort was just awful so we had to come out and get defensive stops and when we got stops, we were able to run and get out in transition and we were able to execute our offense really well and knock down open shots."

The Warriors are playing the first of three straight games at home, where they are 6-8.