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Rockets’ running start too much for Pistons

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets ran early, they ran hard, they ran with impunity and, given how a sluggish start in Los Angeles on Wednesday night marred their performance against the Clippers, running successfully was what the team needed on Saturday night.

Rockets guard James Harden posted a double-double and all five Houston starters scored in double figures in a wire-to-wire, 118-110 victory over the Detroit Pistons at the Toyota Center.

Harden finished with 20 points and 12 assists as Houston (40-19) improved to 12-0 at home this season against the Eastern Conference.

Forward Terrence Jones emerged from a monthlong slump with 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Rockets extended their home winning streak to five games despite the Pistons’ fourth-quarter comeback.

Jones averaged just 10.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in February, ceding minutes to reserve Donatas Motiejunas down the stretch of several close games.

“I just wanted to make sure I was there to make the easy play for guys that get a lot of attention like James and (Rockets center) Dwight (Howard),” said Jones, who made 10 of 15 shots from the field. “That just opens up the floor.”

Harden said of Jones: “He was doing what he does: offensive rebounds, getting to open spots and attacking his man off the dribble. He got back into a groove and we’re going to need him to play big down the stretch.”

Detroit trailed by as many as 25 points before guard Rodney Stuckey converted a layup with 5:41 left that cut the deficit to 107-97. Rockets guard Patrick Beverley responded with consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead back to 16 points with four minutes to play and supply Houston needed cushion.

Beverley finished with 19 points and five rebounds. Howard added 17 points, eight boards and four assists and forward Jordan Hamilton, substituting for Chandler Parsons (illness), had 13 points and four rebounds while making his first start with the Rockets.

Pistons center Andre Drummond posted 16 points and 17 rebounds and forward Josh Smith added 21 points but on 8-of-24 shooting from the field.

Stuckey, whose driving layup cut the deficit to seven points with 1:34 left, had 23 points off the bench, but Detroit (23-36) could not complete the comeback and lamented their awful opening half.

“It’s something that we have to find a way to control,” Pistons forward Greg Monroe said. “The last game (Wednesday night at San Antonio) in the first quarter, the (Spurs) came out and blitzed us. We were fighting an uphill battle the rest of the game.”

The Rockets blitzed the Pistons from the initial tip, grabbing an 18-4 lead with a flurry of transition baskets and rim attacks. The Pistons stood idly by as Houston dunked its way to a commanding lead, surrendering 30 points in the paint in the first quarter, including 12 in transition, as Houston raced to a 41-20 lead by the close of the quarter.

Houston opened its largest lead at 58-33 on two Howard free throws with 4:58 remaining in the first half. By the intermission, Harden, Howard and Jones combined for 41 points on 17-of-24 shooting from the field, doing so largely against the Pistons’ token interior defense.

“For us to be young and athletic, our defense needs to be way better than it was tonight,” Smith said. “It was embarrassing in the first half just because of the fact, coming into the game, the day before we had a great practice that was very competitive and we didn’t validate it.”

NOTES: Rockets F Chandler Parsons (illness) was sent home before tipoff and missed his sixth game this season. Parsons entered play ranked 19th in the NBA in total minutes (1,989) and fifth in minutes per game (37.5). … Recently acquired F Jordan Hamilton started in place of Parsons, earning his first start with the Rockets. Hamilton joined Houston at the trade deadline from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for G Aaron Brooks. Hamilton made 11 starts with the Nuggets this season. … Rockets C Dwight Howard dominated the Detroit Pistons in the first meeting, posting a season-high 35 points with 19 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in a 114-97 win on Dec. 21. Detroit approached the rematch with pause relative to defensive strategy. “You don’t want to give him a lot of the same looks and let (Houston) keep that spacing,” Pistons coach John Loyer said. “But then again you can’t guard a guy like Dwight Howard one-on-one the whole night in the post.”

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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