The Houston Rockets came out a bit sloppy and sluggish in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets and fell behind early, but they turned up both the offensive and defensive intensity in the second half on their way to a 107-95 victory.
James Harden finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists to lead the Rockets, and despite just shooting 8-21 from the field for the game, he was 5-9 in the decisive second half to lead the Rockets back from a 54-50 halftime deficit.
Houston received big contributions across the board, as all five starters finished in double figures, and Montrezl Harrell, who saw extensive action off the bench with Nene resting, also scored in the double digits. The shorthanded Rockets were also without Eric Gordon, who sat due to a back injury, but it ended up not mattering as the team got 17 points and 3 steals from Patrick Beverley, 15 from Harrell, 14 from Ryan Anderson and 11 apiece from Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza.
It was a big third quarter that got the Rockets going, as they came out of the halftime gates finally hitting their long range shots after struggling from deep in the first half. Houston hit 7-12 on their threes in the third frame to finish 13-40 from beyond the arc, and they were also effective underneath for the second straight game. The Rockets outscored the Hornets 48-40 in points in the paint and there were several thunderous dunks from both Capela and Harrell.
The Houston defense was also instrumental in the win, as the Rockets moved to 16-0 on the year when holding their opponent to under 100 points. They also held the Hornets to 43 percent shooting from the field, 30 percent from deep and forced 21 Charlotte turnovers despite the Hornets being at full strength tonight after the return of Cody Zeller and Nicolas Batum.
They also kept Kemba Walker mostly under wraps, as he finished with just 14 points and 5 assists on 6-15 shooting. The Hornets also received 15 points from Batum, 12 from Marvin Williams and 10 from Marco Bellinelli.
Charlotte falls to 24-29 on the year and have now lost 8 of their last 10, while the Rockets move to 39-17 and have now won three games in a row. They now return home for a two-game stand against some bottom-feeders, taking on the 16-37 Phoenix Suns on Saturday, then grabbing another three-day break before taking on the 23-30 Miami Heat in their last game before the All-Star break.
Do what they’re supposed to do against inferior competition, and the Rockets should head into the break with 41 wins under their belt.