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Rockets 121, Kings 100

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Having garnered attention with their offensive exploits, the Houston Rockets closed their home schedule in fitting fashion, posting a 121-100 win over the Sacramento Kings Sunday night at Toyota Center.

The Rockets (45-35) led by as many as 27 points en route to victory, riding another scorching start from James Harden (29 points, nine assists) to a 15-point lead early in the second quarter. When the Kings (28-52), the league's highest-scoring team since the All-Star break, rallied to within 45-42 on John Salmons' three-point play with 4:23 remaining in the first half, the Rockets responded with a 17-2 kick.

Sacramento, averaging 107.5 points over the 25 contests following the All-Star Game, couldn't maintain tempo with the fast-breaking Rockets. With Harden serving as their linchpin, the Rockets scored at will in transition (33 fast-break points) and in the paint (56 points), hallmarks of an offense that leads the NBA in possessions per 48 minutes with 96.

Harden showcased the full depth of his skills, both as a scorer and as a passer. He shot 9-for-11 in the first half, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc to carry the Rockets to a 62-44 halftime lead. As the Rockets continued to bludgeon the Kings in the third, Harden displayed his court vision, delivering a pair of nifty alley-oop passes to Greg Smith and Chandler Parsons, the latter coming with 7:49 remaining in the period to build the Rockets' lead to 78-53. Harden followed with a pull-up jumper 41 seconds later for that 27-point lead.

All five Rockets starters scored in double figures, with center Omer Asik recording his 33rd double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Parsons producing 13 points, five rebounds and five assists in his return to action following a four-game hiatus due to a strained right calf.

Salmons scored 14 points for Sacramento while the backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans combined for 20 points on 6-for-19 shooting.

The Rockets eclipsed the 115-point barrier for the 23rd time this season, their most since 1988-89. The win moved Houston into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference standings with the Golden State Warriors. The Rockets own the tiebreaker after taking the season series.

NOTES: With Houston general manager Daryl Morey tweeting frequent updates on the statistical probabilities of the Rockets' first-round playoff opponent, the Rockets have initiated preparations for four teams: the Denver Nuggets (35 percent probability), San Antonio Spurs (30 percent), Los Angeles Clippers (20 percent) and Oklahoma City Thunder (13 percent). The Memphis Grizzlies, at 2 percent, are an unlikely opponent. "At a certain point, we will find out who we're playing," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We're doing all of our background (work). Getting the majority of all the groundwork done, but then we'll get real specific. Maybe not until Wednesday night." ... The Kings lead the NBA in scoring since the All-Star break thanks to an improved offense. No surprise, though, their defense remains porous. Sacramento is allowing 108.2 points per 100 possessions post-break, just a shade under the 108.3 points the Kings are scoring. "We still want to try to correct the other side of the basketball," coach Keith Smart said. "But until you can get a dominant defensive rebounder and a shot blocker in the paint, you're going to still struggle a little bit from the defensive side."
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