HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The "Texas Triangle" looks like the Bermuda Triangle to the New Jersey Nets.
The Nets looked completely inept in a 83-71 setback to the Houston Rockets that was not nearly as close as the score indicated.
Cuttino Mobley scored 18 points, Steve Francis had 17 and rookie Yao Ming added 12 and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who allowed their fewest points this season and held the Nets without a 3-pointer.
Coming off defeats in Dallas and San Antonio, New Jersey fell to 0-3 on a four-game road trip, lost their seventh straight game away from Continental Airlines Arena and dropped their season-high fourth consecutive contest overall.
The Nets, the defending Eastern Conference champions who are just 4-10 since the All-Star break, had not dropped four in a row since March 5-9, 2002.
"I think it's obvious, anyone can see it that we're not right," said Nets guard Kerry Kittles, who scored eight points. "This is not a good feeling. We want to have some swagger and we don't have it right now."
New Jersey trailed, 16-14, with three minutes to play in the opening quarter before Houston closed the half on a 28-10 run.
The Nets set two franchise records for offensive futility in the opening 24 minutes, managing 24 points, eight in the second quarter. It also was the fewest points allowed in a half in Rockets history.
"We didn't score, we didn't make shots and it affected us on the other end," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "We got our heads down like the game was already over. We've got to get back to who we are."
New Jersey opened the second half with a 6-0 burst to climb within 44-30 but got no closer until the waning seconds.
"This was a very big win for us," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "In practice yesterday we worked on what they do. They get a lot of layups from their backdoor play and we were ready for that."
"We moved the center over whenever they ran that play," Yao said through an interpreter. "We were able to stop their most effective play."
Kenyon Martin scored 16 points and Richard Jefferson chipped in 10 and 13 rebounds for New Jersey, which shot 58 percent (11-of-19) in the fourth quarter to improve to a measly 36 percent (27-of-75) for the game.
"We didn't have any energy or effort," Scott said. "We played the first half like the season was over. I don't know what happened. I thought the second we played harder, but we still didn't make shots."
"I really don't know what happened," Kittles said. "They were giving us the jump shots. That's what we took. We're not playing with any confidence or energy right now."
Nets All-Star Jason Kidd managed six points on 3-of-12 shooting and sat out the final 17 minutes with the game out of hand.
"Their leader was hurt," Francis said of Kidd, who did not speak with the media after the game. "I don't know what it is, but there's something wrong with him."
Francis missed the Rockets' practice Friday due to the flu, but he played 41 minutes and made 8-of-13 shots.
"He was phenomenal," Tomjanovich said. "He's a warrior. He had a real solid game. He's such a competitor. I was hoping whatever he had wouldn't bother him."
"I was a little slow tonight," Francis said. "(But) I was able to play with it and we got the win."
With the victory, Houston moved within 1 1/2 games of idle Phoenix for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.
The Nets saw their lead over Philadelphia atop the Atlantic Division slip to just one game.
"We came out flat and they jumped on us like they should when you come out flat," Martin said. "We didn't get any stops and they compounded it.
"It's frustrating, but there's no need to be mad."