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Well-rounded effort sends Rockets past Kings

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When the Rockets missed shots, they attacked the rim. When the Sacramento Kings made shots, the Rockets went to the rim. When the Rockets forced turnovers, got rebounds or ran breaks, they went to the rim, scoring easily with nearly every assault.

This was not unexpected Wednesday night at Toyota Center, given the Kings’ porous defense and second-quarter injury to DeMarcus Cousins, a loss made more devastating by teammate Rudy Gay’s going out in the first quarter with an injury.

But as they rolled to a 119-98 blowout of the Kings, a team that had beaten them twice last month, there was more to the Rockets’ relative determination to attack than just taking advantage of a weakened opponent.

Twice in the Rockets’ past three games, they have matched their season high for points in the paint with 66. In all three of those games, they increased their season high for second-chance points, getting 25 on Wednesday.

Ball movement led to penetration. Penetration led to shots in the paint. And shots in the paint led to defenses moving out of position, giving the Rockets more chances to rebound misses. Dwight Howard got consistent touches inside. James Harden scored in the lane.

“I would say our ball movement has been a lot better,” forward Chandler Parsons said. “We’ve been throwing the ball ahead, and we’ve been playing more unselfish. It’s so much easier for us when we do that, and it just opens up so much more space to operate.”

The Rockets operated so smoothly that they came within one Harden assist of having four players with double-doubles for the first time in one game since Hakeem Olajuwon, Otis Thorpe, Sleepy Floyd and Mitchell Wiggins in 1990.

Averaging 20.3 assists per game, the Rockets got 17 just from their starting backcourt of Harden and Pat Beverley, with Harden in particular repeatedly finding Howard with lobs to the rim that seemed available whenever the Rockets needed a sure bucket.