Harden scores 30, Rockets beat Hornets 100-82
By GUERRY SMITH
NEW ORLEANS (AP) James Harden committed a season-high eight turnovers against the Hornets. He shrugged that off because he also handed out eight assists, one off his season high, as the Houston Rockets played their best game in almost three weeks.
Harden had 30 points and the Rockets broke out of their worst slump of the season by beating New Orleans 100-82 on Friday night.
"It was about making the easy play," said Harden, selected to his first All-Star team Thursday. "Sometimes I tried to do too much, but for the most part our team played great defensively and offensively for four quarters. We needed it a lot just for our confidence."
The Rockets, who had lost eight of nine and trailed by double digits in 12 straight games, led almost all the way this time. Harden scored 10 points and Patrick Patterson had six during a 16-2 run early in the third quarter as Houston took control, going ahead 64-46.
The Hornets never got closer than 10 the rest of the way, losing for only the fourth time in 11 games.
"We played the right way and guys made shots," Harden said. "There were a lot of things that really put us over the top tonight."
Jeremy Lin had 13 points and eight assists for Houston, matching his assist total from the previous three games combined.
The Rockets outrebounded the Hornets 44-34 and made 11 of 21 3-pointers after barely hitting more than 30 percent during their skid. Houston limited the Hornets to 38.8 percent shooting, including a dismal 3 of 20 from 3-point range. The Rockets scored 20 fast-break points to nine for New Orleans.
"Right from the jump ball we came out and played extremely hard," said Chandler Parsons, who had 10 points and beat the Hornets down the floor for three easy baskets. "Offensively our spacing was much better. We moved the ball, we didn't play selfish and our defense was great, too. That allowed us to get out on the break, which is what we do best."
Harden, chosen as an All-Star reserve for the Western Conference, was 12 for 12 on free throws. Patterson added 18 points, his most since scoring 20 against Utah on Dec. 1, and a season-high 13 rebounds.
The Hornets had to take rookie Anthony Davis off Patterson after he scored on an array of putbacks and inside shots.
"My teammates were looking for me and my shots were falling," Patterson said. "Defensively, I just wanted to be a powerful force, someone my teammates could rely on to pick up the energy throughout the game. It seemed like everything was working for me."
Eric Gordon scored 20 points for New Orleans and Ryan Anderson added 19 off the bench, but point guard Greivis Vasquez had a season-low two points on 1-of-6 shooting and played barely more than 6 minutes in the second half.
"I'm more concerned with how we haven't been able to guard and hold teams under 100 points," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "That's where it starts for me. We have to defend better."
Harden, who did almost all his damage on drives to the basket in the first half, sank two 3-pointers during Houston's decisive spurt in the third quarter. He also hit a tough pull-up jumper to give the Rockets a 64-46 lead with 6:47 left.
The Hornets made one run in the fourth, cutting the deficit to 85-75 on Al-Farouq Aminu's follow dunk, but Carlos Delfino responded with a 3-pointer. After Anderson converted a three-point play to pull the Hornets within 10 again, Aminu missed badly on a shot and Harden drove to the basket for his own three-point play to make the score 91-78 with less than 3 minutes left.
The Rockets' bad stretch began with an 88-79 loss in New Orleans on Jan. 9 when they set a season low for points.
"This is where it all started going downhill," Patterson said. "We lost here and went on a losing streak. For us to get this win here against a solid team that's playing great basketball, hopefully this will carry over until tomorrow and we'll start building up a winning streak."
The Hornets shot 37.5 percent in the first half but took advantage of 14 Rockets turnovers - seven by Harden - to remain within striking distance. Five of the miscues came in a little more than 2 minutes as New Orleans cut a 36-26 deficit to 38-36.
The Rockets went back up 48-40 by halftime.
Harden helped the Rockets emerge from their losing skid by being aggressive as they took the lead for good early in the first quarter. He drove for a layup and hit a floater in the lane to tie the score at 11. He dribbled through the lane and converted a three-point play to put the Rockets ahead 14-11, then hit four free throws to stretch the lead to 22-16.
Houston ended the first quarter with five points on one possession. Greg Smith was fouled as he made a putback with 6 seconds left. He missed the free throw, but Houston grabbed the rebound and Delfino drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 1.3 seconds left to give the Rockets a 27-18 lead.
"We just have to keep our bodies moving, and our spacing is right," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "We usually come up with a pretty good shot if we don't turn it over."
NOTES: The teams completed their season series, with the Rockets winning three of four. ... A nifty pass to Davis for a monster dunk in the second quarter was Gordon's first assist in seven quarters. ... The Rockets started a stretch of four games in six days, with three on the road.
Updated January 26, 2013