Austin Rivers scored 41 points off the bench, James Harden tallied 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and the Houston Rockets roared back from a sluggish start in their 129-112 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday in The Field House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
The Rockets (44-25) improved to 4-1 in the restart while the Kings (29-41) were eliminated from playoff contention when the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Philadelphia 76ers earlier Sunday.
Houston played a second consecutive game without guard Russell Westbrook (right quad contusion), although Westbrook and guard Eric Gordon (left ankle sprain) are nearing a return. Rivers helped compensate for their absences with his career high scoring, including 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting prior to the intermission to help the Rockets erase an early 13-point deficit.
Harden added three steals while Ben McLemore chipped in 20 points for Houston. Robert Covington added a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds) with three steals as the Rockets maintained their grasp on fourth place in the Western Conference standings, holding a one-game lead over Oklahoma City.
De’Aaron Fox posted 26 points and nine assists for the Kings while Buddy Hield tallied 16 points off the bench. Sacramento led 36-23 entering the second quarter following a scorching start, shooting 15 of 23 overall -- including 5 of 9 from behind the arc -- while also recording 20 points in the paint in the first 12 minutes.
The Rockets, meanwhile, appeared listless in the early stages. But after missing 14 of 18 3-pointers while committing six turnovers in the opening period, Houston roared ahead with a 14-0 run in the second, with Harden, Rivers and Covington accounting for all the scoring. Rivers’ 3 with 3:10 left capped the run and gave Houston a 55-50 lead. The Rockets hit 7 of 14 3-pointers in the second quarter and led 61-56 at the half before extending the lead in the third.
Houston opened the second half with a 22-9 blitz and surged to an 87-67 lead when Rivers scored at the 2:09 mark of the third period. The Rockets led by as many as 24 points.
--Field Level Media
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