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Tuesday April 13, 2010 1:25 AM

Martin Helps Rockets Crown Kings

Martin scores 39 in homecoming game, lifts Houston to 117-107 victory

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

Houston - Kevin Martin owned the first half, Trevor Ariza and Kyle Lowry took care of the second and together the three teammates helped lift Houston to a 117-107 victory over Sacramento – a win which ensures the Rockets of their 7th winning season in the last 8 years.

“I think it’s really important because our guys have played hard all year long,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman of the importance of his club securing win No. 42 of the season. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs like every team has but we haven’t quit. Our goal when we weren’t going to make the playoffs was let’s finish with a winning record and get as many wins as we can.”

The Rockets actually started slowly Monday night, especially on the defensive end, falling behind by as many as 14 points while watching the Kings put 67 points on the board in the first half. But it was Martin who helped keep Houston in the game early on by attacking a Sacramento defense which was proving to be nearly as generous.

The former King treated the Arco Arena faithful to his entire arsenal of tricks, using a bevy of pump fakes, drives and spot-up jumpers to light up his old club for 26 points in the opening 24 minutes before finishing with 39 for the game. And he did it all with his trademark efficiency, draining 11 of his 20 shots from the field and all 16 of his free throw attempts as the Kings appeared powerless to slow him down.

“When we’re playing our best we’re aggressive offensively, so that’s what I tried to do,” said Martin. “I felt good tonight and just tried to attack the rim often.

“I think the team realized what this game meant for me. There was a lot of emotion running through my body tonight. I saw a lot of jerseys like I was still playing a home game, so that made me feel proud of what I did here. I just wanted to respect the game and the fans who came out supporting myself and my team, and just play hard and see what happened.”

Martin continued to score at a prolific pace in the third quarter but by then he was receiving plenty of help from his teammates and, even more significantly, the Rockets’ renewed commitment to the defensive game plan was beginning to pay big dividends.

Instead of allowing the Kings to waltz into the lane whenever they wanted, Houston was now forcing Sacramento to subsist on a steady diet of outside jumpers and the results were soon noticeable on the scoreboard and in the box score. To wit: Tyreke Evans, who had started the game 8-of-13 from the field while scoring 22 first half points, missed his final 10 shots and finished with only 24 points.

So with Sacramento’s offense sufficiently slowed, the Rockets seized their opening, staking claim to their first lead of the game late in the third quarter as Ariza caught fire from beyond the arc and Lowry (14 points, 11 assists) put on a playmaking clinic.

Houston’s 6th-year swingman drained three straight 3-pointers as part of an 18-6 Rockets run to end the period and just for good measure, with the game hanging in the balance in the final frame, Ariza answered the call once more, scoring 10 straight Houston points – including two more long-range bombs – as the Rockets began to pull away in crunch time.

Lowry, meanwhile, had his fingerprints all over just about everything Houston did in the second half, pushing the pace, directing traffic, setting up teammates and relentlessly attacking the Kings every chance he got. In other words, he was the ideal manifestation of the mindset Houston’s coach wanted to see from his troops down the stretch.

“We talked about it at halftime that we had to be the aggressors and not react to everything they did,” said Adelman. “We had to set the tone and we were much more aggressive in the second half. Kevin kept us in it in the first half but I think it was our attitude in the second half that changed the game – we got so much more aggressive defensively.

“I told them at halftime: you’ve got to respect your teammates; you have to help each other and take more responsibility upon yourself. We’re young like Sacramento is and we’re going to make mistakes. But if you’re going to make them, make them with aggression and don’t be passive.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN
We were so poor defensively in the first half. They pretty much did what they wanted to do, Evans got the ball and just went to the basket. We talked about it at halftime that we had to be the aggressors and not react to everything they did – we had to set the tone and we were much more aggressive in the second half. Kevin kept us in it in the first half but I think it was our attitude in the second half that changed the game – we got so much more aggressive defensively.

It’s been our problem all year long: we’ve got a lot of offensive players and they go out and kind of go through the motions. Sacramento was very aggressive at the start of the game. Wherever they had mismatches they went right at it and took advantage. You’re going to have mismatches but as a team five guys have to play together. I told them at halftime: you’ve got to respect your teammates; you have to help each other and take more responsibility upon yourself. We’re young like Sacramento is and we’re going to make mistakes. But if you’re going to make them, make them with aggression and don’t be passive.

(clinching winning record): I think it’s really important because our guys have played hard all year long. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs like every team has but we haven’t quit. Our goal when we weren’t going to make the playoffs was let’s finish with a winning record and get as many wins as we can. They worked too hard to give the season away in the last 7 games of the season. I told them at halftime, ‘This is not who you are. You’re not going to mail this in. There’s a game and a half to go and you’re going to finish it out.’”

KEVIN MARTIN
I felt great. I think the team realized what this game meant for me. We came out and played hard. It was a great time tonight and hopefully it will be even better in the future.

When we’re playing our best we’re aggressive offensively, so that’s what I tried to do. I felt good tonight, unlike last night. I just tried to attack the rim often.

There was a lot of emotion running through my body tonight. I’ve seen a lot of jerseys like I was still playing a home game, so that made me feel proud of what I did here. I just wanted to respect the game and the fans who came out supported myself and my team, and just play hard and see what happened.

KINGS COACH PAUL WESTPHAL
“Well, even though we have one more game left, I think that it’s an appropriate time being that this is the last home game to talk a little about our team and where we’ve been and where we’re going. So I’m going to focus on that a little bit more than the game, at least initially, and then any questions you guys have I will be glad to answer them.

I just think that to have a great turnout for this team on Fan Appreciation Night, we appreciate that, we appreciate our fans. We know how much they’ve been watching this team this year and how much hope that this city has for the development of this team, and I believe that we’ve taken a lot of great steps this year toward becoming the team that this city will continue to embrace. I think that when you take a team that won 17 games, had the worst record in the league, was the worst rebounding team and the worst defensive team and start with the youngest team, least experienced team in the league – it’s not realistic to expect playoffs.

You can hope for playoffs, and that’s what we hoped for every game, we tried to win every game this year. But what we did expect was intensity, competitiveness and improvement. I don’t think by any measure that this team would be judged to have failed in any of those. I’m very pleased to be coaching this group of young men. When we talk about where we’re going to be going forward, there’s not a player on this roster that I’m down on and would say couldn’t be a part of our team as it becomes a successful playoff NBA team in the future.

Obviously, it won’t happen where everybody’s still here – the deck gets shuffled and you try to add to your team every year and you make deals. These players gave what they had this year with one more game to go – I’m sure they’ll continue to give it less tomorrow night. The first step in us becoming a winning team is that we have to be a competing team. I think this team competed extremely hard this year every game. Some games the results weren’t as pretty but this team did compete.

We have competitors; we will continue to keep adding competitors to this team. As the skill level raises, as young players improve, the win total will go up and as we add to this team the win total will go up and we took a great first step toward that. The goal is winning and we won’t be happy until we’ve achieved that and continue to achieve that over many years. So anyway, getting to this game tonight, this game was – I’ll have to admit, it was a little bit of a distraction I think for our players.

There wasn’t much defense being played out there tonight, there’s no doubt about that. In fact, I do think that the accomplishment of Tyreke (Evans), even though it was a distraction to this individual, can’t be diminished when you look at the totality of this season. To be mentioned statistically in the same breath as Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James is a phenomenal thing.

Every player in our locker room is happy for Tyreke and proud of him because he’s such a great teammate and selfless player. That is the trademark we want for this team as we go forward. So we’re pleased he got the record, we’re sorry it came in a loss. I understand the distraction of the hoopla – it looked like Tyreke forgot to make layups tonight when he was on the cusp. He’s the best layup maker in the NBA and he was struggling – I think he was probably nervous even though I doubt if he would ever admit it.

The reception of the fans was great. I thought it was pretty special for Kevin Martin too to come back in probably a non-characteristic NBA coaches way, I was actually happy for Kevin even though he’s on the other team. We enjoyed having him on the team and to see him have that kind of success when he comes home, every player dreams of that, so we’re happy for Kevin too. It was a nice night for basketball, we wish we would have won and we will continue everything we can to improve this team as we move forward.”

Tyreke Evans
“It was hard, that was the hardest bucket I have ever had to score in my life. Coming into the game I knew everyone wanted me to break the record at home in front of my family and my friends. It was kind of tough. Trying to get that last bucket, it seems like nothing would fall for me. I told coach to take me out then put me back in. Then I got fouled, the foul shots made me nervous, but then it went in. I thought I was going to air ball the first one. I shot it hard and then it went in, then the second one went in. It was a good season for me overall. We didn’t get the win at home, but we played hard. I just went out and tried, but it was so hard to get that bucket.” 

On what it means to the city of Sacramento
“It means alot, they came out and showed support. They had all their signs up and were watching me make history. They have been good all year, whether we were losing or we were winning. Those are true fans right there.” 

On what to expect going into tomorrow
“The next game in L.A. you can expect us to just go out there and play. This is off my back now. I am going to play the game I have been playing all year out there and hopefully we will get a win.” 
 
Donte Greene
On Tyreke tonight getting 20-5-5
“There were a lot of distractions tonight. I am just happy for Tyreke. At the end of the day I just wish we could have gotten the win, but congrats to Tyreke.” 

On tomorrow and looking toward next season
“Tomorrow we just need to finish strong, work hard and we need to try to get ready for next year. I would like to get that starting job (next year) and go from there.” 

On Coach Westphal’s extension
“It is definitely nice. For me having three coaches in my two NBA years it was a little difficult. Now we have someone who is stable and a good guy. We are going to go far.”  
 
Omri Casspi
On the pressure on Tyreke tonight
“I just tried to tell him, you just got to score two points, it’s only two points. You just can’t force it. I think it was too much pressure because it is an unbelievable thing and he was under pressure. It was nice though.” 

On the fan support and going into next season
“It is a good feeling. We have a lot of support. We need to focus going into the off-season on our game and get better for next year.”

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