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Rockets rout Kings in home finale

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- With their fans gathered for one final regular-season home game, the Houston Rockets provided another glimpse of their excellent offense.

Powered by their successful blend of transition scoring, paint prowess and volume 3-point shooting, the Rockets blew past the Sacramento Kings 121-100 Sunday night in their home finale at Toyota Center.

The Rockets eclipsed the 115-point barrier for the 23rd time this season, their most since 1988-89. The win moved Houston (45-35) into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference with the Golden State Warriors. Houston owns the tiebreaker after taking that season series.

"For us having 45 wins for this team coming in with all the newness and stuff (is significant)," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "(Finishing) 29-12 at home is big; that's a good home record. For teams that are building and trying to get where we want to go, we've got to establish winning at home first and build on that. This year is a year where we're building on a lot of stuff, and there's a lot of stuff to be proud of."

The Rockets 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 devastating 17-2 finishing 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.

By shooting 13 for 27 (48.1 percent) from behind the 3-point line, the Rockets recorded at least 13 3-pointers for the 18th time this season.

"That wasn't really a fun event there," Kings coach Keith Smart said.

Harden showcased the full depth of his skills, both as a scorer and as a facilitator. 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 deep into the third quarter, Harden displayed excellent 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' cushion to 78-53. Harden followed with a pull-up jumper 41 seconds later for that 27-point lead.

For the 12th time 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 following a four-game hiatus (strained right calf).

At just over 36 minutes per game, Parsons ranks just outside the top 20 in the league in average minutes. Given his critical role with the Rockets as a multifaceted contributor, Parsons' comeback was another positive.

"I want to play tomorrow (at Phoenix), I want to play against the Lakers (in the regular-season finale Wednesday night), I want to play as much as possible before the postseason just so I'm in 100 percent game shape and not gassed and not tired," Parsons said. "I think it's really important for me to play a lot of minutes."

Salmons scored 14 points for Sacramento while the backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans combined for 20 points on 6-for-19 shooting. Reserve forward Travis Outlaw scored 15 points in garbage time, but it was the Kings' reserves that supplied the thrust in the second quarter.

The starters were lethargic and ineffective, with each recorded a minus plus-minus rating. Even through their scoring exploits the Kings continue to struggle, their problems on Sunday night the latest of many.

"We did a good job of getting us back in the game but then we let it go again," Kings reserve guard Jimmer Fredette said. "We got it back in and we just weren't making some shots and they got some shots in transition. Give credit to them, but we have to give a better job getting stops."

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," 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," 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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