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Rockets snap funk, respond with win over Hornets

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- The Houston Rockets have been so starved for a victory in the past three weeks that Coach Kevin McHale was in no mood to waste a good crisis.

The Rockets, who had lost eight of their previous nine games, jumped out to a 48-40 halftime lead over the New Orleans Hornets Friday night, but then allowed four quick New Orleans points to start the second half, cutting their lead in half.

McHale called a quick timeout, and that might have been the blunt message the stumbling Rockets needed as they refocused and coasted to a 100-82 victory over the Hornets at the New Orleans Arena.

"We had one possession where we tried to set the record for most dribbles in a 24-second period, and we might have had another possession where no one passed it," McHale said. "That was not a good start."

But the Rockets responded. James Harden scored 10 of his game-high 30 points during a 26-11 spurt in a 5:58 stretch of the third quarter as the Rockets took their biggest lead, 74-55, with 4:09 left in the quarter.

Harden hit a pair of 3s and added two foul shots and a step-back jumper to key the surge. Marcus Morris and Toney Douglas each hit 3-pointers.

The Rockets (23-22) made 4 of 6 from long range in the quarter and finished 11 of 21 for the game.

Harden was a perfect 12 of 12 from the line in leading the Rockets in scoring for the 22nd consecutive game, one short of tying Moses Malone's franchise record. That helped erase 22 Rockets turnovers -- eight by Harden.

"Guys found me," Harden said. "I got some shots to fall. I think this game was probably our best defensive game as far as for four quarters of really locking in. It's just a good feeling when you haven't been playing well and you play well on both ends of the floor."

The Hornets scored eight straight points to cut the deficit to 76-65, but Jeremy Lin, who scored 13 points, closed the quarter with two foul shots and a layup after a bad inbounds pass. Houston went back up 80-65 at the end of the third.

The closest the Hornets got was 10 points at 88-78 with 3:39 left.

Patrick Patterson added 18 points (on 8 of 11 shooting) and 13 rebounds for Houston.

"We come off a 32-point quarter where the ball is zipping and moving, and we get a little bogged down," McHale said. "We've just got to make sure that our ball movement and spacing is right. If we do that, we usually come up with a pretty good shot -- if we don't turn it over."

Hornets coach Monty Williams, whose team fell to 14-29, said he was most upset by his players' defensive effort. For the fourth consecutive game, the Hornets allowed at least 100 points, and they have lost three of those four.

Williams benched starting point guard Greivis Vasquez in the fourth quarter. Vasquez was 1 of 6 and scored two points in 24 minutes.

"That was a coach's decision," Williams said. "He's got to play better. He's got to understand it's not going to be easy every night, and that's part of growing up. He'll be OK. Sometimes you've got to sit him down and find the guys who are going to play the right way. He'd be the first to tell you he's not playing well right now."

The Hornets were led by Eric Gordon, who scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the first half but went 0-for-4 in the second half. Ryan Anderson scored 19 but was 0-for-5 from 3-point range, his specialty.

Notes: Harden was 12 of 12 from the line and the Rockets were 21 of 26 overall. "We all did a good job of knocking our free throws down," Harden said. "It was just concentrating and having confidence." ... After the Hornets beat the Rockets 88-79 on Jan. 9, Houston went on a seven-game losing streak. "All of us thought about the game that started the losing streak, and we didn't want that feeling anymore," Harden said. ... McHale had some fun contemplating the Hornets' decision to change their nickname to the Pelicans -- the Louisiana state bird -- after the season. Asked what he thought of the Pelicans, McHale said, "Vicious bird -- 'Pelicans, watch out or we'll dump on you.' " McHale said, adding he really doesn't know a lot about pelicans. "A pelican's like big bird that hangs on your shoulder, isn't it?" he asked. "I like hawks and eagles and stuff like that. A pelican's not a bird of prey, is it?" Told that a pelican will dive into the water to snag fish, McHale smiled and said, "Pelicans -- watch out and we'll dive after you." ... Williams said small forward Al-Farouq Aminu has the ability to be a double-digit rebounder. "It's the one thing that he really works at," Williams said. "He does a good job of rebounding outside of his area, and he's got the energy for it. Most small forwards don't rebound the way he does. As his IQ grows, he'll rebound even more. That's what he did in college. And we need it."

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