HOUSTON -- Even for a team ranked second in the NBA in pace, the Houston Rockets exceeded all expectations against the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Keyed by the unconscious shooting of Chandler Parsons in the first quarter, the free-throw marksmanship of James Harden in the second, and another knockout rally in the third period, the Rockets shot the lights out at Toyota Center and deconstructed the Knicks 131-103.
The Rockets (6-7), who entered play second to the Bucks averaging 94.5 possessions per 48 minutes, set a breakneck pace in the first quarter and never relented, parlaying Parsons' 18-point period into momentum that didn't wane. Harden hit all nine of his free throws in the second and combined with Parsons to total 64 points on robust 20-for-32 shooting.
"I think we did a great job, especially at the beginning of the game, of coming out and just being in attack mode," said Harden, who paired 33 points with a game-high nine assists. "Guys didn't settle, we made good shots and we made good passes."
Before suffering their first loss at Memphis on Nov. 16, the Knicks (8-3) paced the NBA in defensive rating. Their steady regression to ninth was on display as the Rockets shot 51.7 percent from the floor and 56.0 from 3-point range for a whopping 59.6 effective field goal percentage.
The Knicks allowed a season high in points for a second consecutive game following their 114-111 loss in Dallas on Wednesday night. Forward Carmelo Anthony paced New York with 37 points and seven 3-pointers, but he committed seven turnovers and couldn't stem the Rockets' tide following a 12-0 run in the second and 13-0 in the third.
"Tonight they beat us in every way you can beat a team," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "I know throughout the course of the year, a season, you have games like this, but it's not acceptable. We just we're ready to play, and that's on me."
The sideshow that was Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, who authored "Linsanity" during a breathtaking three-week run on Broadway last February, took a back seat to the otherworldly offensive effort. Lin had a pedestrian performance of 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
"The team is pretty different," Lin said of the Knicks. "There are some guys that are still there for the most part. But it was good to complete with a couple of my old friends."
The first quarter featured Parsons and Anthony doing their best to replay the duel Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins famously waged in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals. Parsons shot 8 for 8 in the opening period, scoring on a vast array of shots from behind the arc, on driving layups, and from the baseline.
Anthony, a far more reputed scorer, was a willing participant in the competition, drilling three consecutive 3-pointers during one stretch to keep the Knicks in contention. He, too, showcased his versatility by turning a post drive into a basket before nailing his fourth trey of the period to match Parsons' 18 points on a splendid 7-for-10 performance.
But what the Knicks lacked in the first half was a scorer to complement Anthony. Harden filled that role for the Rockets, producing 16 second-quarter points on just six shots from the floor. While terrorizing the Knicks' halfcourt defense with audacious forays into the paint, Harden was repeatedly fouled and cashed in at the charity stripe.
Harden closed the half 15 for 15 at the line, scoring 25 points on a remarkably scant eight field goal attempts. Two of his four baskets were 3-pointers, including a step-back trey that capped a 12-0 run which bumped the Rockets' lead to 67-53 with 1:40 remaining in the half.
En route to their 72-57 halftime lead, the Rockets were led by Parsons (26 points) and Harden (25). Anthony paced the Knicks with 24 but he picked up his third foul pushing off against Marcus Morris with 3:02 left.
"We haven't been as sharp as we were early in the season," Anthony said. "It's back to the drawing board, and tonight was a good ol' fashioned (behind) kicking."
Notes: Even without six-time All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire (left knee), the Knicks entered play on Friday night leading the NBA in offensive rating at 112.7 points per 100 possessions. Comparatively, the Rockets were ranked 19th at 102.8 points per 100 possessions. ... Parsons, who tallied a career-high 31 points against the Knicks, recorded a double-double in four of his previous five games, averaging 17.0 points and 9.0 rebounds during that stretch. He came into the season with just two career double-doubles. ... Anthony became the first Rockets opponent with 7-plus 3-pointers made in a game since Jason Richardson hit seven with the Warriors at Houston on April 4, 2007.