PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Kevin Martin believes the Rockets have found themselves in the wake of the NBA trade deadline.
Houston sent Shane Battier to Memphis and guard Aaron Brooks to Phoenix in moves last week. The two were both popular with fans and respected by their teammates, so there were questions about how the Rockets would adjust.
There didn't seem to be any issues at all on Tuesday night, when Houston beat the Portland Trail Blazers 103-87. It was the Rockets' fifth straight victory and pushed them to .500 at 31-31.
``Talent-wise I think we took a step backward (with the trades), but guys like Chase (Budinger) and Courtney (Lee) are getting an opportunity to get more minutes now, and Coach (Rick Adelman) gets an opportunity to leave his best players out on the court,' Martin said.
Kyle Lowry had 21 points and 11 assists, and Martin finished with 20 points for the Rockets. Luis Scola added 21 points and Houston snapped a four-game losing streak at the Rose Garden.
It was the Rockets' sixth straight road win.
Portland leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge was often double-teamed and held to 14 points, well off his average of 22.4. Nicolas Batum led the Blazers with 22 points.
Coach Nate McMillan and the team lingered behind closed doors after the game. The Blazers were coming off an equally troubling loss on Sunday, when they fell 90-83 to Atlanta at the Rose Garden.
``I'm trying to figure out what or why, but I know the last two games have felt the same,' McMillan said. ``We've been a team that scrapped and had movement and energy and hustle. Our last two games, we haven't been close to that.'
The Rockets, coming off a 91-89 victory over New Orleans on Sunday, led by as many as 19 points after Lowry's jumper made it 87-68 early in the fourth quarter and Portland fans started heading for the exits.
McMillan said after Sunday's game that the team would need time to adjust to the addition of Gerald Wallace, acquired in a deadline trade with the Bobcats, and the return of center Marcus Camby and Brandon Roy from injuries. Apparently it was still a work in progress.
``We're not even close to what we saw tonight,' McMillan said. ``We know we're better than that.'
Martin believes the Blazers are dealing with the same problems Houston had struggled with before the trades.
``I think over on the Portland bench they're going through what we went through all year - just too many quality wings. Now we can just do our three-guard rotation and find a rhythm out there.'
Martin's 3-pointer in the first quarter put the Rockets up 24-17. It was the first of three straight 3s for Houston, with Lowry adding two more.
Lowry hit another 3-pointer that made it 49-40 and the Rockets went on to lead 53-42 at the half. Three Houston players were in double figures at the break: Martin (12), Lowry (13) and Scola (10).
The Rockets opened the second half with an 8-2 run, capped by Budinger's dunk that made it 61-44. Martin hit a 3-pointer that extended it to 73-57.
Wallace hit consecutive 3-pointers for Portland to narrow it to 75-64, but the Rockets would outscore Portland 10-4 and lead 87-68 after Lowry's jumper.
Budinger finished with 14 points.
Martin had scored at least 30 points in three straight games, but the Rockets did not need such an outburst against the Blazers. Houston shot 58 from the floor.
``We're a good team,' Lowry said. ``Our record doesn't show it, but we're a good team capable of winning games.'
The Blazers were without Rudy Fernandez, who had the flu.
Portland signed center Jarron Collins earlier Tuesday to a 10-day contract. The 6-foot-11 Collins has averaged 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 537 NBA games over 10 years. He has played for Utah, Phoenix and the Clippers.
Collins, who played with the Blazers in the preseason, made his debut with 2:20 remaining when Aldridge left for the night. He finished with one rebound.
Goran Dragic returned for the Rockets after missing Sunday's game with the flu. Dragic was acquired in the trade that sent Brooks to Phoenix.
Notes: There was much discussion among fans over whether McMillan would allow Wallace to wear a head band during games. The debate was answered on Tuesday when Wallace wore one during the game. Traditionally, McMillan has preferred his teams to go without them. ... Portland won the first two meetings with the Rockets this season. ... Scola was 10 of 11 from the field.
The Associated Press News Service
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