Harden’s 44 leads Rockets to 6 straight win over Pacers

Harden’s 44 leads Rockets to sixth-straight win over Pacers

Former MVP carries Houston, despite both teams playing shorthanded

On a night where the injury bug hit both sides hard, the Houston Rockets leaned on a former MVP.

James Harden led the Rockets to a 111-102 win over the Indiana Pacers, leading the way with 44 points, while adding eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

“James is ridiculous,” said Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni.

Both teams played shorthanded, missing key players, as the Rockets were without Eric Gordon and lost Clint Capela Wednesday due to a concussion.

The Pacers have played without Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner for most of the season, but lost starter Malcolm Brogdon in the second quarter due to back spasms.

Both teams went back and fourth through the first half. The Pacers built a nine-point lead, but the Rockets came back.

In the third, the Rockets built a 10-point lead, thanks in part to Ben McLemore’s performance, scoring 10 of his season-high 21 points in the quarter.

“He’s done an unbelieveable job on both ends, guarding his butt off, and then obviously knocking down shots,” said Harden of McLemore’s play. “He’s been huge for us.”

The Pacers narrowed the gap, cutting the deficit to one by the end of the third.

Holding onto a one-point lead to start the fourth, a 10-0 run midway through the quarter effectively put the Pacers away, thanks in part to Harden’s 17 points in the quarter.

“He’s really tough to guard,” said Pacers forward Doug McDermott. “He knows how to draw fouls and hit some tough shots, so you have to tip your cap to him.”

D’antoni credited Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker’s efforts into securing the win.

“Tyson solidified the defense,” D’Antoni said. “Then Tuck is Tuck. He’s invaluable to us.”

The Rockets got the win, despite shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range.

Despite having six players in double figures, the Pacers couldn’t hit shots down the stretch as the Rockets pulled away.

Domantas Sabonis lead Indiana with an 18-point, 11 rebound double-double, while McDermott scored 18 off the bench.

“We didn’t play well enough down the stretch to win the game,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said.

Both shorthanded teams continue with back-to-back games, as Indiana returns home against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Rockets head to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves.

The Rockets have to continue to “find ways” to win when playing shorthanded Harden said.

“Tomorrow is going to be the same way,” Harden said. “A really good team in Minnesota, and we’ve got to find another way (to win).”