HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets are entering a pivotal stretch of games, and they nearly let the first one slip away.
The Rockets took a half to remember how they played much of the first two months of the season, then rallied to beat the New York Knicks 105-96 on Saturday night.
Luis Scola matched a season high with 23 points, Aaron Brooks added 20 and the Rockets snapped a three-game losing streak.
The win opened a segment of Houston’s schedule with 11 of 14 games at home, where the Rockets have won seven in a row.
“We can’t think about that too much, we need to think more about the way we play,” Scola said. “If we play the way we’ve played the last three games, it doesn’t matter who we play or where we play, we’re going to lose. We’ve got to play hard, we’ve got to share the ball, we’ve got to be focused and active.
“If we do that, playing at home will be an advantage.”
Kyle Lowry added 16 points, seven rebounds and three steals, and Carl Landry scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter for the Rockets, who rallied from 13 points down in the first half.
“We played with a sense of urgency the whole fourth quarter,” Lowry said. “We definitely needed that. We needed that victory.”
David Lee had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Nate Robinson added 20 points for the Knicks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.
New York shot 56 percent in the first half, then faded in the fourth quarter, mustering only 17 points. The Rockets, meanwhile, shot 41 percent (18 of 44) in the opening half and 58.5 percent (24 of 41) in the second.
“We should’ve won this game,” New York coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They started scoring every time in the second half and we didn’t shut them down. Our defense wasn’t as good as it should’ve been.”
New York opened the game with a 14-3 run, led by four early baskets from Lee. The Knicks hit 12-of-19 shots in the first quarter (63 percent) and led 32-21.
Robinson hit his first four shots off the bench, three of them 3-pointers, and the Knicks preserved their lead in the second quarter. Lee scored 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the period and New York continued to shoot well.
The Rockets finished the first half with a 9-2 spurt to trail only 57-51 at the break. Lee scored 20 points and New York shot 56 percent from the field in the half (22 of 39).
“We’ve got to come out and play with aggression and play harder,” Brooks said. “Somehow, we’re going to have to pick it up in the beginning of the game. We definitely waited too long to start it. Once we got it, we kept pressing, we kept running and we didn’t get satisfied.”
Houston sank seven of its first 11 shots in the third quarter and Brooks’ mid-range shot with 6:49 left tied it at 65. Brooks made a jumper from the top of the key with 3:37 left in the quarter to put Houston up 74-73, the Rockets’ first lead since the first minute of the game.
Lowry, Houston’s 6-foot backup point guard, swooped in for an offensive rebound and tip-in on the Rockets’ next trip, prompting D’Antoni to jump off the bench in anger and call timeout.
Rookie Chase Budinger hit a jumper from the free throw line, then intercepted a pass and raced for a dunk early in the fourth quarter for an 84-80 Rockets lead.
Houston stretched the lead to 93-86 as the Knicks’ shooting continued to tail off after the hot start. Landry scored inside, hit a jumper, then drove for a dunk with 2:34 left to put Houston up 101-96.
“Coach (Rick Adelman) just told me to keep playing and keep fighting because they were going to need me in the fourth quarter,” said Landry, 1 for 5 from the field in the first three quarters. “Stuff started going my way late in the game.”
The Knicks gave away a turnover and Lowry just beat the shot clock with a jumper from the top of the key with 1:38 remaining to put it away.
NOTES: The Knicks allowed an opponent to score 100 points for only the third time in their last 16 games. … Knicks F Al Harrington sat out for the second straight game with a strained left calf. D’Antoni expects Harrington to play in Monday’s game in Oklahoma City. … The Rockets have won 11 of the last 13 meetings with the Knicks.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.