January 1, 2020 / 2:43 AM / 25 days ago

Harden hits for 35 as Rockets rout Nuggets

EditorsNote: Some minor fixes

Dec 31, 2019; Houston, Texas, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) warms up prior to the game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 63 points, and the host Houston Rockets avenged an earlier loss to the Denver Nuggets with a 130-104 win Tuesday.

Harden paired 35 points with six assists while Westbrook added 28 points and seven assists to carry Houston to its seventh consecutive home win over the Nuggets, who had won nine of their past 10 games overall.

Denver defeated the visiting Rockets 105-95 on Nov. 20 by trapping Harden repeatedly and forcing his teammates to fill the void offensively. Houston countered that gambit Tuesday with exceptional ball movement in the first half, and after the Nuggets sliced a 17-point halftime deficit to 92-89 entering the fourth, the Rockets opened the final frame with a 19-3 surge to reclaim control.

Clint Capela chipped in a double-double for Houston (16 points, 10 rebounds) while Isaiah Hartenstein produced his first career double-double with 16 points and 12 boards off the bench. Ben McLemore drilled three 3-pointers for the Rockets, two during their fourth-quarter rally.

Nikola Jokic led Denver with 21 points, including 13 to pace the Nuggets’ 37-point third period. He added eight rebounds and four assists. Monte Morris, also instrumental during the Nuggets’ third-quarter comeback, scored 18 points off the bench. Paul Millsap had 13 points and nine boards for Denver while Jamal Murray (12 points) and Will Barton (10) combined for 22 points on 10-for-30 shooting.

With the Rockets trailing 16-15 midway through the first period, Harden keyed an 18-6 run with a four-point play at the 5:24 mark of the quarter.

Houston’s Eric Gordon, who tallied 12 points in reserve in his second game back following mid-November knee surgery, drilled a 3-pointer early in the second quarter and another later in the frame that extended the Houston lead to 53-38. Denver labored to keep pace, and when Danuel House Jr. sank a corner trey that beat the first-half buzzer, the Rockets led 69-52.

Denver made inroads in the third by pounding the offensive glass, converting four boards into nine second-chance points. Malik Beasley sank a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left in the period to cut the deficit to three, but the Rockets regained their rhythm to open the fourth and cruised from there.

—Field Level Media

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