Knicks fall to Rockets for ninth loss in 10

Jared Jeffries goes to the basket between Houston

Jared Jeffries goes to the basket between Houston Rockets defenders Luis Scola, left, and Jordan Hill in the first half. (Jan. 28, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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HOUSTON -- Things have gotten so rough for the Knicks that coach Mike D'Antoni went deep into his bench in hopes of generating something Saturday night.

It didn't work. Nothing has lately for the Knicks, who lost for the ninth time in 10 games. They closed out their four-game trip with a 97-84 loss to the Rockets and went home with a 7-13 record.

"We're just playing awful,'' D'Antoni said. "We just can't make a shot. It's not real good.''

Playing their second straight game without Carmelo Anthony because of hand and foot injuries, the Knicks struggled at both ends of the court. They had trouble scoring again, as they shot 38.2 percent, and their defense failed them.

Despite missing leading scorer Kevin Martin because of a right foot injury, the Rockets converted 49.4 percent of their shots and won for the ninth time in their last 10 games.

"We have to do what it takes," Tyson Chandler said. "I don't care what it is. I really don't. I refuse. I refuse to go through a losing season like that. We've got to man up."

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Five Rockets scored in double figures, including three off the bench. Chase Budinger scored 19 and former Knicks draft pick Jordan Hill had 14 points, shot 6-for-7 and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Amar'e Stoudemire had 23 points and Chandler added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who are not helping their coach. D'Antoni is in the final year of his contract, and with such high expectations placed on the Knicks, if they continue to underachieve, it ultimately could cost him his job.

D'Antoni has remained positive and believes the Knicks will start winning. Much of that will depend on Anthony's play when he returns to action and the impact Baron Davis will have when he's able to go. Both could play Tuesday against the Pistons.

Against the Rockets, instead of a lineup featuring Stoudemire, Anthony, Chandler and Davis, the Knicks opened the fourth quarter with one that included Renaldo Balkman, Steve Novak and Jeremy Lin. The Knicks were down 75-60 to start the fourth and fell behind by 21.

What was D'Antoni looking for with that lineup? "Anything,'' he said. "A little spark of anything, just trying to turn it around. This was the fourth game in five nights, so maybe someone could come in and give us a spark, but it didn't happen."

D'Antoni went to Lin in the third quarter and he helped cut a 10-point deficit to six. But the Knicks went 4:15 without scoring -- they were 0-for-3 with four turnovers -- and dug a 17-point hole.

"Right now I feel we're not comprehending and we're not getting better at the fact that we lose games because of turnovers or we lose games because of lack of effort or whatever the case may be," Stoudemire said. "We have to figure a way to comprehend and learn from our mistakes, and right now we're not doing that."

Chandler said he was "baffled" at how differently the Knicks performed against the Rockets one night after fighting hard in a loss in Miami.

They seemed to discover Friday night that if they play hard and together, they have a chance to win. But they went backward against Houston.

"I'm a competitor and it's tough," Chandler said. "It's tough losing, tough losing to teams you know you're supposed to beat. Just frustrating."

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