James Harden scored 40-plus points for the fourth time in six games and the host Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to six games with a 111-102 victory over the Indiana Pacers Friday at Toyota Center.
Harden paired 44 points with eight rebounds to carry the short-handed Rockets to victory. With Houston trailing 88-86 midway through the fourth quarter, Harden scored 12 consecutive points to lift the Rockets to a double-digit lead. Harden also tallied five assists and four steals.
Houston played without Clint Capela (concussion), Eric Gordon (right knee surgery) and Danuel House Jr. (sore back).
When the Pacers began to aggressively trap Harden in the third quarter, Ben McLemore rendered aid, posting 10 of his season-high 21 points in the period. Austin Rivers added 10 points off the Houston bench. Russell Westbrook had 17 points, eight boards and six assists despite shooting just 5 of 21 from the floor.
Domantas Sabonis (18 points, 13 rebounds) paced an equally short-handed Pacers squad. Indiana, without Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb, leaned on bench production with four reserves scoring in double figures: Doug McDermott (18 points), T.J. McConnell and T.J. Leaf (12 apiece) and Justin Holiday (10).
But the Pacers shot just 8 for 33 on 3-pointers while Houston finished 14 of 46 from deep. Harden and McLemore finished a combined 10-for-25 on 3s.
Indiana had its four-game winning streak snapped.
What was an impactful start for Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon ended abruptly after he departed with a sore lower back after posting two points and four assists in nine minutes. The Pacers utilized their ample depth and found production elsewhere, starting with Sabonis and continuing with McDermott (both scored 11 points prior to the halftime intermission) while extending to a 47-38 lead on a pair of TJ Warren free throws with five minutes remaining in the first half.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the Rockets reeled off a 16-0 blitz, keyed by eight points from Harden. Westbrook and Rivers combined for six free throws during that run, one that enabled the Rockets to carry a 54-49 lead into the break. Harden tallied 20 points in the opening half.
—Field Level Media