James Harden went off for a season-high 45 points in a 110-98 win over the Indiana Pacers.
Harden’s 45 were just one point shy of his career-high and came on just 18 field goal attempts – making him the fifth player in the last 30 seasons with 45 points on 18 or fewer field goal attempts (Adrian Dantley, Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas and Kevin Martin are the others).
The Rockets came out firing and scored their first nine points on three straight three-pointers. Then, Dwight Howard went to work inside and nearly notched a double-double in the first quarter alone. The big man eventually finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds for his 19th double-double of the season.
“I’m just happy we bounced back from the last game,” Dwight Howard said. “Indiana is a pretty good defensive team. We did a good job of moving the ball early and getting the big lead and then we kind of relaxed and that’s something we can’t do. We relaxed and they (Indiana) came back and we can’t allow that to happen. We’ve got to do a better job of closing teams out.”
The Rockets built a quick 13-point lead as the Pacers started 1-8 FG, but Indiana responded by going 7-13 for the rest of the quarter to cut Houston’s lead to eight after the first.
Corey Brewer jump started the Rockets in the second by hitting 4-6 FGs in his first five minutes of play, but the Rockets turned the ball over 12 times in the first half to let the Pacers hang around. Indiana went on a 9-0 run to get within a point, but the Rockets responded with a 7-0 run of their own and took a 10-point lead into halftime.
“I thought we started out with great effort. I thought there were times throughout the game when our turnovers kind of caught up with us and we didn’t take care of the ball enough. But overall I thought our start was really good. We held them to a 45 point half. I thought there was a lot of good stuff tonight, and stuff to build on,” Kevin McHale said.
James Harden only had 12 points at halftime and didn’t seem poised to notch a season-high scoring game, but he caught fire in the third. The Beard scored 18 in the quarter and build the Houston lead as big as 24 points.
Yet, the Pacers would not go away. They started the fourth on a 22-12 run and cut the lead bck down to single digits. However, Harden checked back in and took over. He knocked down 15 points in the final frame and finished with 33 second half points – the most he’s ever scored in a half in his career.
“Once we get into a rhythm, we’ll be alright. Smoove (Josh Smith) and Brew (Corey Brewer), they’ve only been here for a few weeks. I think it will come. We’ll have to keep preaching and doing the right things and eventually it will start clicking for us,” Harden said.
Harden also racked up his league-leading fourth game with season with over 40 points scored. No other player has more than two such games.
The Rockets begin a three-game West Coast road trip Wednesday at Golden State.