HARDEN LAUNCHES ROCKETS STRIKE: James, Gordon lead Houston to 125-111 win over San Antonio Suns

By The Standard: Friday, December 23rd 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Basketball
Dec 20, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after making a three point basket to take the lead against the San Antonio Spurs in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

A night after their 10-game winning streak came to a halt with a two-point loss at home to San Antonio, the Houston Rockets looked ready to start a new run of victories.

The Rockets went from making 38 per cent of their shots, including just six of 38 3-pointers, to a 53.5 field goal percentage and 18 made three-pointers on 38 attempts. It added up to a 125-111 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

James Harden had 27 points and 14 assists as the Rockets earned their 11th victory in 12 games.

“It’s a good bounce-back win, back-to-back, and the guys showed some heart,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Eric Gordon added 24 points off the Rockets’ bench, shooting seven of 13 on 3s. Patrick Beverley finished with a season-high 18 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.

Harden’s biggest shot came with 4:19 left, a pull-up 3 for a 120-100 lead. He bent down and moved his arms in a swimming motion in celebration as he ran back to the bench.

“He just knows when to pick the spots and he knows what he has to do and he controls the whole game,” D’Antoni said.

Devin Booker’s 28 points led the Suns, who have lost four in a row. T.J. Warren added 19 and Brandon Knight 17.

Gordon hit back-to-back 3s midway through the fourth quarter, the second one at the 6:39 mark for a 110-95 lead.

“It’s tough to really slow us down, knocking the 3s down and also making layups,” Gordon said. “Teams just have to pick their poison against us.”

The Rockets led by as many as 13 in the third, only to see the Suns cut it to 86-84 on a tip-in by P.J. Tucker with 1:19 left. Harden drew a questionable foul call against Tucker on a 3-point try with 4.3 seconds left and made all three free throws to give Houston a 91-84 lead entering the fourth.

The Rockets led 30-26 after the first quarter, when the Suns struggled to get back in transition. Houston scored 12 fast-break points in the period.

Harden took only two shots in the quarter, but excelled as a passer, handing out seven assists.

“Stopping people in transition, it’s mostly on the defence. It’s something we have been working on in practice, but in game time, we still are not doing,” Booker said. “Obviously, James being the playmaker, he finds the open man. When they have so many shooters on the floor, it’s tough to guard.”

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