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Harden leads Houston's rout of Portland

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND -- The Houston Rockets are the top-scoring team in the NBA. Friday night at the Rose Garden, they showed why.

With James Harden leading the way, the Rockets blew out Portland 116-98 for their fourth straight victory.

Harden went for 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists as Houston remained in seventh place in the Western Conference playoff race, a game behind Golden State.

"He makes that team go," Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge said. "I'm not saying he's LeBron (James), but he's like LeBron in that he likes to pass the ball, he's so good at the pick-and-roll and he's so hard to guard."

Harden penetrated almost at will, making 11 of 21 shots from the field, and also was effective from long range, making 4 of 9 from 3-point territory. It was his second game back after missing two games with a sore right foot.

"I got myself going a little bit with my body tonight," the All-Star guard said. "That allowed me to move the basketball and be in attack mode for the entire game, rather than just holding the ball and trying to make plays stagnant."

Aldridge scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers (33-43), who lost for the seventh consecutive time.

Jeremy Lin collected 22 points and eight assists and Greg Smith added 19 points for Houston, which shot .513 from the field and .429 (12-for-28) from 3-point range.

Harden and Lin "were both aggressive," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "They had a lot of dump-offs for Greg and our bigs. They did a nice job of getting into the paint and breaking down the (Portland) defense."

Portland trimmed a seven-point halftime deficit to 68-63 early in the third quarter, but the Rockets revved up the motors again, taking a 92-77 advantage into the final period.

Harden's 19 points helped stake Houston to a 63-56 lead after the first half, the Rockets shooting well from the field (.526) and 3-point range (.529).

Aldridge kept Portland within striking distance with a monster first half, collecting 22 points and nine rebounds before intermission.

Harden bombed in 17 points and Houston sank 6 of 8 from 3-point range en route to a 35-31 lead after one quarter. Aldridge scored 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the period for the Blazers.

The Rockets scored the first nine points of the second quarter to jump in front 44-31, and it was 53-40 midway through the quarter.

NOTES: It was the 20th time this season that Houston, which averages 106.0 points, scored 116 or more. ... The Rockets won the battle in fast-break points 28-14. ... Aldridge moved past Mychal Thompson into seventh place on the Portland career scoring list with 9,221 points. ... Aldridge leads the NBA with seven games of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. Miami's James has six. ... Aldridge also tied a career high with his 36th double-double of the campaign. ... Portland point guard Damian Lillard was honored as the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the fifth straight month -- the first time a rookie has swept a conference award through the first five months of a season since the Clippers' Blake Griffin in 2010-11. "I'm happy for him," Stotts said. "He's very deserving. He had his best month of the season in March. It's quite an accomplishment for him." ... Portland native Terrence Jones went scoreless in 14 minutes off the bench for Houston. The 6-foot-9 rookie had his best game in the Rockets' previous outing, a 112-102 win at Sacramento Wednesday night, going for 14 points and 12 rebounds. "He played very well for us (against the Kings)," McHale said. "I liked a lot of the stuff Terrence was doing five or six weeks ago. He started grasping everything we were doing and was getting way more in tune with what we were asking him to do. But he messed up his thumb, and couldn't even handle the ball for a couple of weeks. We sent him down to the D-League and he had three or four really good games. We brought him up, threw him out there and he did great."
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