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Rockets 103, Pistons 93: Harden's triple-double too much for Detroit

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James Harden records his third triple double of the season in win over the Pistons.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Josh Smith storyline took a backseat to James Harden tonight. Harden recorded his third triple-double of the season tonight against the Pistons.

The last time these two teams faced one another was on January 31, D.J. Augustin and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went off for 56 points in a 114-101 Pistons win. The Pistons backcourt looks much different this time around, Augustin has reunited with his former Longhorn teammate Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City and Reggie Jackson is starting at the point.

Another change from the last meeting, Terrence Jones has returned to the Rockets lineup to combat the Pistons bigs, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Jones has averaged 16.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks since the All-Star Break.

The Rockets jumped out to an early lead after the first quarter, 29-23. The Rockets pushed the pace to counter the towering front court of the Pistons, but were careless with basketball. Houston had five turnovers in the quarter, four of which came from James Harden. Harden did return to form on the scoring end, nearly matching his point total from Wednesday (18 points) with 12 points in the first quarter.

Houston held the lead at the half to 54-46. The Rockets were dominating on the glass, out rebounding the Pistons 32-21. It resulted in 16 extra chance points for Houston. Harden was in full-beard mode, doing a little bit of everything - 19 points, 6 rounds, and 5 assists at the half. Terrence Jones gave everyone a scare, coming up lame after rebound a ball last in the second quarter. The legend of T-Jones only grows as he returned without problem in the third quarter.

The third quarter devolved into rec-league levels of organization for both teams. The Rockets were going through the motions on defense and shot just 2-for-10 from the field to start the quarter. The Pistons cut the Rockets' lead to two, 58-56. Harden and T. Jones responded with 16 points to close the quarter, the Rockets lead 80-69 heading into the fourth.

The Rockets put the game out of reach with 18-point run, and opened up the lead to 91-69 in the fourth. James Harden picked up his third triple-double of the season, 38 points, 12 assist, and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes. Harden is the first Rocket to have three triple-doubles in one season since Clyde Drexler in 1996-1997 season.

The Rockets were able to clear the bench with 5:31 left in the fourth quarter. Hell even K.J. McDaniels saw some minutes. The offense came to a screeching halt with Harden on the bench. Detroit went on a 14-2 run, forcing Harden to take off his warm up jacket and reenter the game. Rockets held on for the win, breaking their two-game losing streak.

A few takeaways from the game:

  • Donatas Motiejunas looks like he has dead legs, he is getting no lift and can't finish shots.
  • Terrence Jones is beast. After heading the locker room with a hip injury, he finishes the game with 17 points and 8 rebounds.
  • Rockets need more attention to details. The Rockets turned the ball over 19 times and were just careless with the ball. Harden specifically had 7 turnovers in the game.
  • Joey Dorsey did his job, picking up 10 rebounds.
  • Harden went to the line 18 times (16-18), after going to the line only twice against the Grizzlies.
The Rockets fly to the mile-high city to take on the Nuggets tomorrow. A tough back-to-back playing at altitude in Denver.