Harden-led offense tough to stop right now
The Rockets said it was like a playoff game.
Then they went out and played like it.
After a quick start, the Rockets were able to pull away in the second half of a 118-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. The Rockets shot 47-for-78 from the field for 60.3 percent, their best effort of the season.
The Rockets are now 14-2 when shooting over 50 percent from the field this season.
The Rockets came into the game clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference, slightly ahead of the ninth-place Blazers. The Rockets had lost the previous two matchups to the Blazers, both coming in overtime.
“That was huge going into the game,” forward Chandler Parsons said. “We understood that we gave two up in overtime that we should have won, especially against a team that is right behind us in the playoff hunt. We needed this game. Every game counts.”
In both of those first two losses to the Blazers (Nov. 2 and 16) the Rockets had a substantial leads before blowing it in the second half and later losing in overtime.
The Rockets were determined to not let this one slip away.
“We were definitely wanting to bring our A-game tonight,” Parsons said.
James Harden led the way for the Rockets, scoring 35 points and dishing out 11 assists. He shot 13-of-16 and didn’t miss a shot until the second half.
“Just being aggressive,” Harden said. “Shots are falling so it opens everything else. My teammates are knocking down shots and it’s tough to guard us when my teammates are knocking down shots.”
While Harden scored the game-high in points, it was the other things that caught the eye of his head coach.
“That was really efficient,” Kevin Mchale said of Harden. “He’s on quite a roll. He’s making plays. The thing I like about it, the 11 assists he had.”
McHale also pointed out the team’s efficiency. As a squad, they had 27 assists and 10 turnovers.
Jeremy Lin had 16 points and four assissts. Parsons had 20 points and Patrick Patterson had 16.
Coming out of the half, the Rockets had a nine-point lead and they continued to push it in the third, increasing it to 15 points after three.
Harden had 20 points didn’t miss in the first half. He was 8-for-8 from the field, 2-for-2 from three-point range and 2-for-2 from the line.
LaMarcus Aldridge was almost as good as Harden in the first half. He scored 19 points by halftime and finished with 31, while Damian Lillard scored 14 and accounted for nine straight Blazers’ points in the second quarter. He finished with 18.
Harden started off just as fast as the team did, scoring 10 points early but didn’t score for nearly the final four minutes of the first quarter.
The Rockets have three more games – all on the road – before the All-Star break next weekend.