You had to know it wasn’t going to be easy. The Houston Rockets have made a habit all season of playing to their competition, and it was no different tonight when they traveled to Charlotte to take on the under .500 Hornets.
In typical Houston fashion, they jumped out to a big, 15-point, first-half lead, but as has also been the case all season, they blew it. The Hornets, however, blew a 12-point lead right back, and the Rockets closed the deal down the stretch for a 118-113 win.
James Harden led the way with 30 points and 7 assists, but he was just 10-29 from the field and 1-11 from beyond the arc. In fact, before hitting a triple in third, he was on a three-point miss streak of 22 straight.
Harden’s poor shooting was also a factor in Houston coughing up their first-half lead, as he also missed several easy layups and floaters off of drives. But defense and effort were the real culprit, as Houston rested on their laurels after snagging that big lead. Charlotte ran off a 28-6 run to close the first half to head into the break with a 69-62 lead.
The Rockets woke up in the third period behind Chris Paul, however. After going down 12, CP3 led the Rockets on a 14-3 run to close the gap, before Marvin Williams hit a 35-foot buzzer beater to make the score 94-90 Hornets after three. Paul finished with 17 points, 10 assists, and 2 steals on 7-13 shooting.
Houston was able to close the show in fourth with an 18-4 run that put them up 10 points halfway through the period, and though Charlotte kept it close, Kemba Walker missed a big three with 18 seconds left, then Harden ended it from the charity stripe.
In addition to Harden and Paul, the Rockets also got 23 points and 17 boards from Clint Capela, who rebounded from a slow start that saw him miss several early bunnies to finish the game 10-16 from the field. P.J. Tucker pitched in 15 points, and he was a perfect 5-5 from beyond the arc, while Gerald Green also had 15.
The Hornets were led by Kemba Walker, who finished with 35 points and 5 steals, however, 27 of those points came in the first half, and he wasn’t nearly the same force after the break. Charlotte also got 18 from Jeremy Lamb, 17 from Nicolas Batum, 13 from Cody Zeller, and 12 from Marvin Williams.
As always, a win is win, but it didn’t come without cost. Both Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert were injured in this game, with Faried sufferering a strained hip flexor, and Shumpert suffering a sore right calf. Their status will updated as soon as we hear something.
Nonetheless, Houston won its third game in a row and move to 36-25 on the season. They’ll be back in action tomorrow at home against the Miami Heat.