Published March 21, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Brooks scored seven straight points down the stretch and the Houston Rockets got strong efforts from the players they got for Tracy McGrady to beat the New York Knicks 116-112 Sunday.
Kevin Martin, acquired by the Rockets from Sacramento in the three-team deal that sent McGrady to New York, led Houston with 28 points. Rookie Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries, who went from the Knicks to the Rockets, played key roles down the stretch because of injuries and illnesses to Houston's frontcourt.
Hill finished with a season-high 13 points, while Jeffries took a pair of charges in the final quarter.
McGrady finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes, but was scoreless in the fourth.
David Lee had 27 points and 20 rebounds for the Knicks, who blew an early 17-point lead. Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas each scored 26, with Douglas making a franchise rookie-record six 3-pointers in the best game of his career.
Reserves Kyle Lowry and Chase Budinger each scored 18 points for the Rockets, who rebounded from Friday's loss to Boston to win for the fifth time in six games. Brooks finished with 16 points and Houston won despite getting little from ailing forward Luis Scola, then losing Shane Battier to a first-half knee injury.
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.
The three-team deal at last month's deadline 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 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.
Houston coach Rick 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 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 scored 26 in his Knicks debut on Feb. 20, but he hasn't been able to play with any consistency after his long absence. He was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting Friday in a victory over Philadelphia and his average was down to 10.6 points in 15 games in New York entering Sunday.
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 22½ minutes. He averaged 23.9 points and 13.0 rebounds in the previous eight games.