76ers-Rockets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 19, 2012
The Houston Rockets' new backcourt hasn't been the perfect fit, but it was hard to tell in the last game. James Harden and Jeremy Lin will try to keep that momentum going on Wednesday night when the Rockets host the slumping Philadelphia 76ers. The addition of Harden from Oklahoma City and Lin from New York brought plenty of star power to Houston, but blending their talents is still a work in progress. Still, Harden and Lin can carry the club when they're both on their games, as was the case in Monday's 109-96 road victory against the Knicks, who entered the game with a league-best 10-0 home record. Harden, the team leader with 25.1 ppg, finished with 28 and a season high-tying 10 rebounds, while Lin impressed in his return to Madison Square Garden with 22 points and eight assists to help the Rockets (12-12) rebound from Sunday's 103-96 loss at Toronto. "Tonight I think we complemented each other really well," Lin said after Houston ended its seven-game road slide. "I think that's really important for us to be aggressive and pick our spots and feed the hot hand. Tonight we did a good job and took a step in the right direction in terms of figuring it out." The Rockets have figured out how to win at the Toyota Center, posting an 8-2 mark there since opening 1-3 as the home team. Houston is also much improved on the defensive end, giving up 95.3 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting during its current 3-1 stretch. The Rockets yielded an average of 113.6 points while splitting their previous eight contests. "We are just getting better with our communication," said Harden, whose 42 steals are second-most on the team to Lin's 44. That doesn't bode well for a Philadelphia team that could be without injured leading scorer Jrue Holiday for a fourth consecutive game. The 76ers (12-13) opened their two-game Texas swing - and a stretch of 10 of 11 on the road - with Tuesday's 107-100 loss to Dallas. Still, Philadelphia's Dorell Wright hit seven 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 25 points and center Spencer Hawes matched a season best with 18. "I thought we had some guys play well and we've got to keep building on that,'' said coach Doug Collins, whose team has dropped a season-high four straight and seven of nine since a 6-2 stretch. "We know we're undermanned, but nobody cares.'' Holiday, the team leader with 18.4 points per game and 8.9 assists, could give Philadelphia a much-needed boost, but he doesn't want to return too soon and risk further injury, regardless of the pressure he feels to get back on the court. "I'm going to try to get back as quick as possible," Holiday said after Tuesday's shootaround. That can't come soon enough as Philadelphia has lost four in a row away from home and is on the verge of matching its longest skid of last season. Houston's 93-87 home win on Feb. 22 sent the 76ers to a fifth straight defeat. The Rockets had dropped four straight at home to Philadelphia and seven of eight in the series. Wright, who will play his first game in this series, scored a career-best 34 points in a 131-112 loss at Houston on March 23, 2011, while with Golden State. Harden is averaging 11.4 points in five career games against the 76ers, while Lin totaled 32 points and 11 assists in two matchups versus Philadelphia last season.
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