NEW ORLEANS — Houston Rockets guard James Harden was selected to the Western Conference All-Star team Thursday. On Friday, he found the need to remind the New Orleans Hornets why.
With an efficient and dominant performance, Harden scored 30 points to lead Houston to a 100-82 victory in New Orleans Arena.
Houston (23-22) was unusually effective on defense, beat the Hornets (14-29) on the boards and avoided falling behind by double digits for the first time in 13 games to post its second victory in its past 10.
“I was just making the right play and the easy play,” said Harden, his drives to the basket helping produce eight assists and getting him 12 free throw attempts, all of which he made. “Sometimes I got in traffic and tried to do too much, but for the most part our team played great offensively and defensively for four quarters.”
The Hornets, who had one of their best defensive performances in beating Houston 88-79 in the teams’ previous meeting Jan. 9, looked out of sync on offense and defense. That loss had started the Rockets on a seven-game losing streak.
“I kind of reminded them of that, especially in the fourth quarter when we were up 15, just to be solid,” Harden said. “We just did the small things — rebounding the basketball, knowing guys’ tendencies and what they like to do and making sure they don’t do them.”
It was the second consecutive loss for the Hornets, who begin a five-game road trip Sunday at Memphis, and it was the fourth time in six games that an opponent scored 100 points.
“I am seeing this pattern over the last few games,” coach Monty Williams said, “where we had a good rhythm and started messing with the game. There were a lot of breakdowns.”
With Harden taking over early and backcourt mate Jeremy Lin aiding him in driving to the basket, the Rockets gained a nine-point lead at the end of the first quarter and built on it.
Harden and Lin, who had six steals, had help. Patrick Patterson had 18 points and a career high-tying 13 rebounds, and Carlos Delfino scored 14 points, shooting 4-of-6 on 3-pointers.
The Rockets, who came in allowing 104 points per game, held the Hornets to 38.8 percent shooting, 15 percent (3-of-20) on 3-pointers and outrebounded them 44-34.
Eric Gordon led the Hornets with 20 points, and Ryan Anderson had 19, but it was hard to come by and they received little help. Point guard Greivis Vasquez scored just two points on 1-of-6 shooting and had just six assists. He spent the fourth quarter on the bench.
“He’s got to understand it’s not going to be easy every night,” Williams said.
The Rockets led 80-65 after three quarters, but only after threatening to blow the game wide open. Houston led 76-57 with 2:33 left as Harden and Patterson combined to score 16 points.
With the score 76-61, Austin Rivers drove, was fouled and scored. He missed the free throw, but the Hornets rebounded, and Rivers sank a 3, making it 76-65.
But Lin scored the quarter’s final four points.