Friday, February 08, 2013 10:45 pm
Harden scores 35, Rockets beat Blazers 118-103
By CHRIS DUNCANAP Sports Writer
Harden went 13 for 16 from the field and 4 of 5 from 3-point range, putting on an individual show in the last game at the Toyota Center before the NBA's All-Star weekend comes to town. Harden was chosen as a reserve for the West squad, making his first All-Star team.
LaMarcus Aldridge, another All-Star reserve for the West, scored 31 points for Portland. The Blazers had won the previous two meetings this season in overtime, rallying from double-digit deficits in both.
Not this time. Houston preserved a comfortable lead for most of the second half, and Harden finished off Portland with a fadeaway jumper from the wing.
Nicolas Batum scored 24 points and Damian Lillard had 18 for the Blazers.
Early on, Houston repeatedly found openings inside and hit 12 of its first 15 shots. When Portland crowded the lane, the Rockets passed outside for open 3s, and they hit five of their first seven attempts.
Aldridge and J.J. Hickson, meanwhile, got easy baskets inside and made nine of their first 14 shots to keep Portland close.
The Blazers played better defense at the start of the second quarter to pull within one. Houston got rolling again, and Parsons finished a quick 10-0 burst to put the Rockets up 47-36 with 6:31 left in the first half.
Aldridge continued to carry Portland, dominating whichever Houston big man tried to front him. He scored 19 in the first half, but the Rockets shot 65 percent (24 of 37), a season best for a half, and led 62-52 at the break.
The Rockets continued to find open paths to the basket in the third quarter and stretched the lead to 15 - matching their largest lead when the teams played in Portland in November.
Houston didn't let up in this one. Patrick Patterson slammed home a rebound and Harden sank another 3 to keep the Rockets comfortably ahead as the third quarter wound down. Harden was 11 for 12 from the field - with three 3-pointers and 11 rebounds through three quarters.
Parsons started the fourth quarter by swishing a 3 from the corner, and backup point guard Patrick Beverley was fouled on a breakaway layup after a steal and converted both free throws for a 100-80 Houston lead.
Harden capped his night with a fadeaway jumper over Lillard with 3:55 left to put the Rockets up 112-93.
Houston coach Kevin McHale took out his starters with just under 3 minutes left.
NOTES: Aldridge also had 11 rebounds and has seven consecutive double-doubles. ... Houston's 62 first-half points matched a season high for a Portland opponent. ... Rockets point guard Toney Douglas limped off the floor with a left hip injury and did not return. ... Retired C Yao Ming sat courtside with his agent, John Huizinga. Yao, an eight-time All-Star with Houston, retired in July 2011. ... Rockets rookie Royce White had his physical and is expected to report to the team's development league affiliate on Monday. White has not played this season as he and the Rockets negotiated an agreement to help him cope with his anxiety disorder and balance the demands of the NBA schedule.