HOUSTON -- Slow and steady wins the race for the deliberate, but the Brooklyn Nets failed to execute that game plan against the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets literally ran past the Nets on Saturday night at the Toyota Center, racing to a 119-106 victory that came courtesy of their need for speed.
With the Rockets (24-22) and Nets (26-18) stationed on opposite ends of the NBA's pace spectrum, Houston established control with its breakneck 34-point second quarter. The Rockets ran effectively throughout and enticed the methodical Nets to accelerate the tempo even though such a pace played into the Rockets' collective hands.
"They got out in transition and we just couldn't stop them," Brooklyn guard Joe Johnson said of the Rockets. "We had a point in time in the second half where we could score but we just couldn't get stops."
The Rockets weren't all transition baskets and 3-pointers. While they totaled 27 fast-break points to the Nets' seven and finished 12 of 28 from behind the arc, the Rockets dominated the glass against the Nets, outrebounding Brooklyn 50-31. Houston also outscored Brooklyn 60-24 in the paint to extend their series win streak to 12 consecutive games.
Center Omer Asik was at the heart of the Rockets' exceptional rebounding and overwhelming advantage on the interior, combining 20 points with 16 rebounds to take his matchup with Nets center (and All-Star Game snub) Brook Lopez. Asik grabbed six offensive rebounds, which helped set the stage for the Rockets to run early and run often.
"He did a great job finishing and he did a great job rebounding tonight, too, which allowed us to start the transition offense which we're best at," Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said of Asik. "The guy has been great for us all year long rebounding."
As for the Rockets, their lone All-Star representative, guard James Harden, played a key role closing out the victory in the fourth quarter.
After the Nets, who trailed by as many as 20 points before rallying to close the third quarter, clawed to 108-98 on a Deron Williams post-up, Harden converted a three-point play and then high-fived famed attorney Rusty Hardin, who was sitting courtside.
Harden added a nifty reverse layup on the ensuing possession before converting another three-point play at the 1:56 mark to boost the Rockets' lead to 118-103.
Harden finished with 29 points and seven assists and, of great significance, zero turnovers after amassing 15 turnovers against the Nuggets and Hornets earlier this week. Backcourt mate Jeremy Lin added 14 points and nine assists, and Parsons had 16 points and a career-high 11 assists. The Rockets assisted on 31 of 43 field goals.
"Every guy that stepped on the court got out in transition and got some easy layups and got some 3-balls and just played our game," Harden said. "Our brand of basketball."
Williams scored 20 of his 27 points in the first quarter and added 11 assists before drawing an ejection with 1:07 remaining in the game. Lopez scored 21 points, making 9 of 10 free throws, and added seven rebounds and five blocked shots. But when the Nets needed defensive stops, they failed to muster them often enough to shift momentum.
"I don't know; maybe we're a step slow," Lopez said. "I don't know if I'm communicating enough and contesting enough, but we have to change what we're getting back to doing."
NOTES: The Rockets reinstated rookie forward Royce White after the two sides established a protocol for his mental health concerns. White suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and was suspended by the Rockets on Jan. 6 for initially refusing his D-League assignment. He will report to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Feb. 11. "This has been a learning process for both parties," read the joint statement. "The NBA and National Basketball Players Association have approved the settlement." ... Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo repeatedly stressed the need for Brooklyn to control the tempo against the Rockets, who opened play on Saturday night leading the NBA in pace. The Nets, conversely, were ranked last in that category. "I don't like playing against them; I love watching them play," Carlesimo said. "They're a real entertaining team to watch. I think their concepts are great for their personnel."