Rockets’ Harden hits 44, Pacers lose sixth in a row

Agence France-Presse
Rockets’ Harden hits 44, Pacers lose sixth in a row
MVP candidate James Harden follows up his 50-point explosion with a 44 point output as the Rockets gear up for the playoff push

INDIANAPOLIS, USA – NBA scoring leader James Harden struck for 44 points Monday, March 23 (Tuesday in Manila) to power the Houston Rockets over Indiana, 110-100, delivering the Pacers their sixth consecutive defeat.

Harden, who scored a career-high 50 points against Denver just 4 days earlier, connected on 10-of-21 shots from the floor, including 3-of-8 from three-point range, and hit 21-of-22 attempts from the free throw line.

The Rockets improved to 47-23 with their fourth victory in 5 games, bouncing back from a loss Saturday at Phoenix to keep the third best record in the Western Conference and fourth-best in the league overall.

Houston, which hit 13-of-24 from beyond the 3-point arc, kept pace with Southwest division leader Memphis, remaining two games off the pace of the Grizzles, who won 103-82 at New York on Monday.

Rockets forward Josh Smith added 18 points, Donatas Motiejunas scored 17 and Trevor Ariza grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who remain without injured center Dwight Howard but confident they can make a deep run in the playoffs.

“I feel like we could do something special this year when we get everybody healthy,” Smith said. “We’re trying to build something heading into the playoffs. We feel like we have the talent to do it. We’re ready to emotionally sacrifice for each other to do it and to get to that level.”

C.J. Watson came off the bench to score 23 points to lead Indiana while George Hill scored 20 and Roy Hibbert added 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Pacers star Paul George, who suffered a broken leg last year while playing for the US world championship team, warmed up with the team but did not play. His return could come soon as the Pacers fell to 30-40, 10th in the Eastern Conference and one game behind Boston for the eighth and final playoff berth. –

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