Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/12/12
HOUSTON -- Rockets guard James Harden returned from a one-game injury hiatus and provided Houston with a scoring punch that, considering the opponent, few anticipated would be so sorely needed. With the lowly Wizards refusing to relent on the heels of their first road win on Tuesday night in New Orleans, the Rockets struggled before pulling out an unsightly 99-93 win Wednesday night at Toyota Center. Harden paced the Rockets (10-11) with 31 points after being sidelined on Monday with a sprained right ankle. The Rockets maintained their breakneck pace against the Spurs even without Harden, eventually falling in overtime. Their offense was less efficient against Washington. The Rockets built a 10-point lead at the close of the first quarter and surrendered that advantage thanks to nine second-quarter turnovers before allowing the Wizards (3-16) to answer their 15-2 run with a 10-0 burst late in the third. It took Harden converting a three-point play at the 6:13 mark of the fourth before the Rockets established a workable margin. Whereas Houston relied on Harden to carry the scoring load, the Wizards countered with offensive balance and five players scoring in double figures, including forward Nene, who had 13 points off the bench. Two nights after matching his career high of 38 points, Rockets guard Jeremy Lin scored just 10 and appeared timid in searching for his shot. Houston center Omer Asik was the lone starter who failed to reach double digits in points, but he corralled a game-high 16 rebounds. Jordan Crawford, transitioning to point guard with John Wall sidelined by a stress injury in his left patella, had 17 points and five assists. His backcourt mate, rookie Bradley Beal, added 20 points and six assists. Emeka Okafor and Martell Webster scored 19 and 16, respectively, for the Wizards, who are in the midst of playing four games in five nights. Rockets forward Chandler Parsons posted 18 points and eight boards, nailing both of his 3-point shot attempts in the decisive fourth quarter. NOTES: The Rockets entered play Wednesday night fourth in the NBA in free-throw-rate differential (free throws attempted/field goals attempted), trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves. It helps that guard James Harden is fourth in the league in free throws attempted with 179, but the Rockets' aim is to attempt a minimum of 25 free throws per game. "There are always times where you can attack more, but we do a pretty good job at that," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "When you're drawing and kicking and attacking, you are going to get to the line." ... Following an 0-8 road start, the Wizards notched their first victory away from Verizon Center with a 77-70 triumph over the Hornets in New Orleans on Tuesday night. "Winning on the road is always nice in the NBA," Washington coach Randy Wittman said. "That being our first win on the road, it was good. The guys felt good about it."
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