HOUSTON — James Harden paced a breakout third quarter as the Houston Rockets recorded their eighth consecutive victory over the Charlotte Hornets, 102-83, on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
Harden finished with 36 points on 12-for-19 shooting, his fifth consecutive game with at least 25 points while hitting better than half of his field-goal attempts. He tallied 15 of the Rockets’ 29 third-quarter points, helping Houston (22-9) extend a two-point margin at the intermission to 65-54 on a 3-pointer with 4:57 remaining in the period.
His backcourt mate, Patrick Beverley, chipped in 14 points and keyed the burst out of the break with a pair of 3-pointers and a transition layup. During a five-minute stretch bridging the second and third quarters, the Rockets hit six 3-pointers and scored twice more on transition baskets.
Hornets guard Gerald Henderson scored 16 points in a more expansive offensive role following the loss of center Al Jefferson to a left groin strain. Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and guard Kemba Walker and added 16 and 12 points, respectively, for the Hornets, who lost their four consecutive game overall and 10th in succession in Houston.
The Rockets needed Harden, who drilled a career-high eight 3-pointers, to bail them out early. Charlotte (10-23) jumped out to a 5-0 lead and led 21-18 when Harden drilled his first trey, from the corner, with 2:04 left in the first quarter to pull Houston even.
The Hornets reclaimed the lead with the final four points of the first quarter and extended to a 38-34 lead in the second when center Cody Zeller made a layup at the 4:46 mark.
Harden followed by scoring the next five points before assisting on a transition dunk by forward Josh Smith. Harden and Beverley added 3-pointers before the half closed as Houston regained its collective stroke from deep.
The Rockets shot 17-for-43 (39.5 percent) on 3-pointers while tallying 40 points in the paint. The Hornets made three of 18 attempts from long range (16.7 percent) and added 32 points in the paint.
NOTES: Hornets C Al Jefferson is expected to miss at least four weeks with a left groin strain revealed by an MRI exam Monday. Jefferson leads Charlotte in scoring (18 points per game) and rebounding (8.2 per game). Hornets F/C Bismack Biyombo replaced Jefferson in the starting lineup, and he finished with nine points and seven rebounds. … The Hornets recalled rookie F Noah Vonleh from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League to replace Jefferson on the active roster. In two games with the Mad Ants, Vonleh averaged seven points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks. … Rockets G Alexey Shved missed his third consecutive game due to a left ankle sprain.
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