EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Houston Rockets jumped out early, then talked afterward about how well they responded to New Jersey's run.
The game was never really in doubt after the first 10 minutes. The Rockets led by 10 points after the first quarter, and the closest it got after that was the final margin.
"We kept the pedal down and didn't relax," McGrady said. "We didn't get too comfortable out there."
Jason Kidd returned to the Nets' lineup after a one-game absence, but his game didn't until it was too late. He finished with 10 points -- eight in the fourth quarter -- seven rebounds and seven assists.
Rafer Alston scored 15 points, and Shane Battier had 12 for the Rockets, who won for the fifth straight time in New Jersey. The Rockets have won two in a row overall and five of seven following a six-game skid.
"We need to just start getting a rhythm here as a team, and maybe having a game like this where we had different people give us lifts, that's what we need," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said.
"The first 10 to 13 minutes of every game, we are terrible. We are awful," Jefferson said. "It's almost a joke. Being a starter, I'm as responsible as anybody. It's frustrating because after that we play even or better than our opponent.
"The fact that we even have nine wins right now is amazing to me. We've been down double digits so many games, I don't know what to say."
Kidd missed New Jersey's 100-93 loss to New York on Wednesday night because of a migraine. Though coach Lawrence Frank said the Nets believed their captain, not everyone bought that story. A number of local papers wrote that Kidd skipped the game in protest to force a trade or contract extension.
He had only two points through three quarters before hitting three largely meaningless baskets in the final 5 minutes. Kidd shot 4-of-12 from the field.
"I feel better," Kidd said. "Being back out there, I tried everything I could. McGrady right off the bat was on fire and that put us in the hole. The guys kept playing hard and we just couldn't get over the hump."
The Nets missed eight of their first 10 shots, and McGrady scored 13 points in the first quarter to help Houston build a 28-18 lead. He added six more in the second as the Rockets extended their lead to 48-33 at halftime.
The Nets shot only 35 percent in the first half, then came out and scored the first eight points of the third quarter, cutting Houston's lead to 48-41 on Jefferson's 3-pointer 1:45 into the half. Alston responded with 3s to open and close a 13-4 burst that extended the Rockets' advantage to 61-45, and Houston was ahead 72-60 going to the fourth.
"We did a nice job of answering their run. They came out hot in the third quarter, we went back to our strength," Battier said. "Got Yao the ball, got T-Mac the ball where they couldn't double-team him and we were able to keep them at bay for most of the game."
- In his 17th and expected last NBA season, Houston's Dikembe Mutombo walked into the arena and announced, "This is my last visit to the Meadowlands." Then, as if he'd never been here before, walked right past the entrance to the visitor's locker room before a security guard pointed him in the right direction.
- Pat Fraher called technicals on Carter and Frank during the second quarter. Carter's came after he nearly smacked the referee in the face waving his hand in anger for not getting a call.
- Jefferson fell just short of his third straight 30-point game.