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Harden gives Rockets much needed win over Hawks

Associated Press

12/31/2012 9:42:02 PM

HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets had allowed 120 points in consecutive tough losses entering Monday night's game against Atlanta.

This time it was Houston's turn to put on an offensive show that left the other team at a loss.

James Harden had 28 points and the Rockets rebounded from their worst loss of the season with a 123-104 win over the Hawks.

The Rockets were coming off a 30-point defeat by Oklahoma City that was preceded by a loss to the Spurs.

On Monday night they used a 16-0 run in the second quarter to build a big lead and hold on for the win.

"We really moved the ball well obviously shooting 61 per cent in the first half," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "We made a ton of shots. We moved the ball really well and attacked."

Lou Williams had 21 points to lead the Hawks, who saw a four game winning streak snapped with the loss.

"Houston's shooting pretty much sums it up," Atlanta's Josh Smith said. "They got on a streak where they couldn't miss."

Houston was up by 15 points in the fourth quarter before Atlanta used a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 102-97 with about five minutes remaining. Carlos Delfino scored five quick points after that, before a three-point play by Harden extended Houston's lead to 110-97 less than a minute and a half later.

The Rockets had a nice play soon after that when Harden stole the ball from John Jenkins and passed to Marcus Morris, who found Omer Asik on an alley-oop dunk.

"We had two kind of bad losses and we needed to come back and play our brand of basketball and do whatever it takes to get a victory," Harden said.

McHale had implored his team to take better care of the ball after having 24 turnovers in each of the last two games. He seemed to have gotten through to his young team, as the Rockets had just nine, despite the Hawks entering the game forcing more than 16 a game.

"It was big for us," McHale said of limiting their turnovers. "We just can't afford to turn the ball over. If we don't do that and we make just good and simply plays, usually we can get some pretty good shots with some movement, and our guys knocked them down tonight."

Atlanta led by one point early in the second quarter before Houston used a 16-0 run to take a 46-31 lead 6 1/2 minutes before halftime. The run started with three straight 3-pointers by Houston. Delfino made the first and third ones and Patrick Patterson sunk the second one. But Houston wasn't done with its 3-point barrage, and Tony Douglas ended the run with another 3.

The Hawks missed seven shots in that span as they went more than four minutes without scoring.

Atlanta finally found some offence after that, but the Rockets didn't slow down and had soon extended their lead to 60-40 after a pair of free throws by Harden with about two minutes left in the second quarter.

Harden made a 3-pointer just before halftime to leave Houston up 64-46.

Houston has won five straight over Atlanta, including a 109-102 win earlier this season when Harden had a career-high 45 points. He wasn't as dominant this time, but was still able to extend his career-long streak of games with 20-plus points to 13 games.

"Houston is a very hard team for us to match up with," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "We have a hard time defending this team."

Smith scored 17 with seven rebounds in his return after missing a game with a hip injury, and Al Horford had 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Delfino returned from a two-game absence with an illness to score a season-high 22 points, with six 3-pointers, and a career-high-tying eight assists. Asik added 11 points and 17 rebounds for the Rockets and Jeremy Lin added 16 points with eight assists.

Houston was up by eight with about two minutes left in the third quarter before the Rockets used a 9-0 run to extend the lead to 90-73. Delfino got it going with a 3-pointer and also had a layup in that span.

The Hawks used an 18-8 spurt in the first half of the third quarter to cut Houston's lead to 72-64. Atlanta shook off a second quarter where it shot just 29.2 per cent by making three, 3-pointers to start the second half.

NOTES: Drew said that Devin Harris (sore left foot) and Anthony Morrow (right hip strain) aren't with the team and are both out until the team returns home on Saturday. He said he'd have an update on their status when they get back to Atlanta. ... The Hawks made 12 3-pointers for their franchise-record fourth consecutive game with at least 10 3-pointers. ... Smith had four blocks on Monday to move past Pau Gasol into 43rd place in NBA history with 1,365 blocks.