Houston started the game firing out of the cannon as they ended the first quarter with a 38-19 lead. Trevor Ariza stole the show in the first quarter with twelve points, and the Rockets were clicking from the jump. Sacramento looked lethargic and Houston took advantage of that right away.
James Harden started off slow, but the rest of the team was picking up the slack. Even Corey Brewer, who has been struggling all year, scored eight quick points in the end of the first and early second quarter, including canning both of his three-point attempts. It was weird but wonderful.
The Rockets’ lead blew up to 29 points and it looked like Houston was going to run away with the game. However, an 11-0 run by Sacramento led by Omri Casspi brought the Kings to within 15. Sacramento coach Dave Joerger had the team put on more defensive pressure, and the Rockets, for a while, were unable to find a way to conquer it. Harden was also struggling mightily in the second quarter and the lead plummeted to 18 at halftime.
The third quarter was largely defined by several runs by the two teams. The Kings tried to start the second half by knocking on the door. But as soon as that happened, the Rockets were able to bring the lead back up. Harden was still struggling, but Ryan Anderson was able to wake up from his shooting slumber and get some points on the board.
The final frame was dominated by the superstar of each team, James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins was trying to lead the team back, but the deficit never got to less than eight points despite Cousins desperately nailing four threes at the end of the quarter. Harden started off the quarter with 9 points and was able to finish with a quiet triple-double with 23 points, 10 boards, and 10 assists.
For most of the game, Harden was unsuccessful at offense. However, the rest of the team was able to pick up the slack and make from distance. It is very hard to beat any team that makes 21 threes and scores 117 points, and that is the difference between this year’s team and last year’s. Last year’s team did not have the depth nor the versatility around Harden to play at this level.
Ariza finished with 18 points, shooting 6-11 from deep. Anderson had 13 points and zero rebounds, but chipped in 4 assists. Patrick Beverley had 7 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, and has continued his stellar play since his return. Clint Capela dropped 17, 10 and 2 blocks against DeMarcus Cousins, who had 32 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Houston started off strong on the first game of another important 5-game road trip. They improve to 10-6 and head to Portland to face the Trail Blazers on Sunday night. The Kings fall to 6-10 and will fly across the country to face the Nets on Sunday.