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Rockets cruise past Hornets behind big first half

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Houston slowed down after jumping to a big lead, but they had enough in the tank to hold off a shorthanded Hornets team.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets came out the gates tonight against the Charlotte Hornets and built a big first-half lead before going into cruise control in the second half of the second game of a back-to-back, and they knocked off the Hornets 118-106 for their ninth straight victory.

The Rockets busted out to a big 38-19 lead after the first quarter and extended it to 71-42 at the break behind rugged defense and some hot shooting from three. The Hornets shot just 40 percent before the break, and the Rockets were 10-19 from beyond the arc to help push them out to that big lead.

They did it without James Harden being at his best in the first half. The Beard was just 2-12 from the field before the break, as the Rockets got contributions from everywhere in building that 29-point lead.

Harden did end up finishing as Houston’s leading scorer, putting up 28 points to go along with 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals, and he was much better from the field in the second half, finishing 7-21 after his ugly start, but the Rockets were a step slow elsewhere after the break.

It may have been apathy from the big lead they built, the tired legs after playing two nights in a row, or some combination of both, but the Rockets gave up a 17-2 run to close the third quarter to allow the Hornets back in it, and Charlotte would get as close as 10 points with 3:30 left in the game before Houston was able to close it out.

In addition to Harden, the Rockets got 22 points and 5 threes from Eric Gordon, 19 points and 15 rebounds from Clint Capela, 16 points and 9 boards from Kenneth Faried, and 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists from Chris Paul.

The Hornets were led by Kemba Walker, who was practically unstoppable all night. He went for 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists on 14-20 shooting, but it simply wasn’t enough with Charlotte down Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, and Marvin Williams from their normal rotation.

The Hornets also got a nice night from Frank Kaminsky, who went for 15 points, and they got 13 from Dwayne Bacon, 12 from Miles Bridges, and 10 from Malik Monk.

The Rockets now move to 42-25 on the season and will remain in the third seed in the Western Conference regardless of what Oklahoma City does tonight. They’ll have a day off before returning on Wednesday night in huge nationally televised contest against the Golden State Warriors in which the Rockets will be going for a sweep of the season series.