NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Battling for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and facing back-to-back games, the Houston Rockets got just what they needed against the New Jersey Nets - a laugher, courtesy of Kyle Lowry.
Lowry had 16 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds and the Rockets moved within two games of eighth-place Memphis in the West by cruising to a 112-87 win over New Jersey on Tuesday night.
``We're just playing. We're happy, we're having fun,' Lowry said after the Rockets (39-35) won for the sixth time in seven games. ``We just go out there and we're flowing. We know who is going to get the ball and how we're going to score. We're confident and we're finally getting something going.'
The Rockets have made an amazing run, posting a 17-7 record since Feb. 2 to inch within striking distance of the idle Grizzlies (41-33) with eight games left in the regular season.
``This was a good win for us. I thought we came out with a lot of energy,' Houston coach Rick Adelman said. ``We played very well offensively. We had the ball movement and we pushed it at them from the very start. That's what we wanted to do.'
Kevin Martin added 20 points for the Rockets, who make up for the lack of a superstar by playing a team game. They had 30 assists on their 46 baskets and controlled the boards with 56 rebounds, including a game-high 14 by Chuck Hayes.
Against the struggling Nets, the game was over by halftime as Houston built an 18-point lead.
That allowed Adelman to rest his starters for long stretches in the second half with a game in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
``It was important to get guys some rest,' Lowry said. ``It's still a back to back, it's still hard. We've got to go out there and concentrate and play. We're going into a hostile situation against a good team playing for a better seed in their conference.'
Brook Lopez had 22 points for the Nets, who lost their third in a row and seventh in eight games. Deron Williams missed his sixth straight game for New Jersey (23-50), which has lost 50 games for the second straight season.
``I'm disappointed,' Nets coach Avery Johnson said. ``We can't keep writing these off as bad games. I am a competitor. We expect more. I don't make excuses. We just didn't get it done tonight.'
Patrick Patterson and Goran Dragic added 13 points apiece for Houston.
Jordan Farmar added 12 points and seven assists for New Jersey, while Kris Humphries had 13 rebounds.
Lowry, who came in with a sore left foot, made sure Houston had no problem posting its 10th straight win over the Nets.
The fourth-year point guard who was making a strong run at being the league's most improved player, single-handedly did in the Nets in the first quarter. He scored 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field, hitting all three of his 3-pointers in helping the Rockets take a 34-21 lead.
``He's tough,' Johnson said. ``I live in the area and know him and have watched his maturation. When they matched the offer sheet that Cleveland gave him in the summer, you know why. He has really turned out to be a fine guard, improved 3-point shooter, good defensively and a hard-nosed player.'
Houston put the game away in the final four minutes of the quarter, scoring 14 straight points in a 17-2 run. Lowry hit a three-point play and a 3-point basket in the run that also featured four point from Patterson and a 3-point basket by Chase Budinger, one of 11 in the game for the Rockets.
``It was a culmination of defensive errors and poor offense,' Johnson said. ``Right now with the state of our team, we're not good enough to survive poor starts.'
Houston built the lead to 18 at the half and expanded the margin to 26 points in the third quarter.
Notes: Lowry extended his career-best streak of double-figure scoring games to 15. ... The Rockets' 61 points in the first half marked the 31st time this season that Houston has scored at least 60 points in a half. ... The 10 straight losses to Houston are the Nets' longest current losing streak against any NBA opponent. ... The last time the Nets had consecutive 50-loss seasons was 1999-2000 and 00-01.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved