Rick Adelman's first trip back to Sacramento didn't go so well.

With Houston unable to afford another loss at Arco Arena at this point in the season, Adelman and the Rockets hope for a better result when they visit the Kings on Tuesday.

The Rockets (49-24) are 1 1/2 games behind New Orleans and San Antonio for the Western Conference lead. With the first six seeds separated by just a few games, Houston is eager to snap out of its recent inconsistent play.

Since a 22-game winning streak from Jan. 29-March 16 - the second-longest in NBA history - the Rockets are just 3-4.

They have beaten the Kings (33-40) twice this season in Houston, but lost 107-99 at Sacramento on December 1. That game was Adelman's first at Arco Arena after the Kings decided not to renew his contract following a second consecutive first-round playoff exit in 2006.

Adelman and the Rockets didn't help their cause Sunday, falling 109-88 to the Spurs. Luis Scola scored a season-high 24 points and Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston each added 13 for Houston, which trailed 66-48 at the half and was behind for much of the game.

After holding opponents to 88.3 points on 40.9 percent shooting during the 22-game win streak, teams have averaged 101.0 points on 48.1 percent shooting the last seven games. The Spurs shot 53.0 percent on Sunday.

"The frustrating part about tonight was our defense," Scola said. "It doesn't matter how bad you play on offense, but if you play good defense, things become easier."

Tuesday is the second game of a five-game road trip for the Rockets, who also visit Portland, Seattle and the Los Angeles Clippers. Houston has lost three of its last four road games, but is 21-14 away from home overall.

The Rockets have won four of their last six trips to Arco after losing their previous 11 there.

The Kings are coming off a 120-107 win at Seattle on Sunday. The SuperSonics led by three at the end of the first half, but Sacramento outscored Seattle 32-18 in the third quarter to pull away.

"This was a case of our guys coming out in the second half and deciding that they wanted to guard somebody," coach Reggie Theus said. "It was all about defense."

Kevin Martin scored 31 points - 19 in the second half - while Ron Artest added 29 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.

Martin, who is leading the Kings with 23.4 points per game, has averaged 30.7 the last three games.

Sacramento is 2-4 in its last six games, with the two wins coming against the two worst teams in the West. The Kings beat Memphis 107-106 in overtime on Wednesday.

With Sunday's win, the Kings matched last season's victory total with nine games to go.

"It's a failure," Artest said. "We have one of the best defensive players to ever play the game in myself. We have Brad (Miller) and Kevin, up and coming first and second team All-NBA guys, and we have some good point guards, so it's a failure that we didn't make the playoffs."


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