Rockets-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 10, 2013
James Harden's teammates are getting used to his high-scoring efforts, and they'll gladly take the victories that come along with them. Though he hasn't put up big numbers in his career against the Sacramento Kings, he's never faced them wearing a Houston Rockets uniform. Houston looks to earn a seventh victory in its last nine tries by winning a fifth straight game in Sacramento on Sunday night. Harden, who will play in his first All-Star Game when Houston hosts the festivities next weekend, ranks fifth in the NBA with 26.0 points per game. He scored 36 in a loss to Miami on Wednesday before netting 35 while adding 11 assists in Friday's 118-103 win over Portland. "(Friday) was one of those (games) where it's just like he makes play after play after play,'' Jeremy Lin said of Harden, who hit 13 of 16 from the field. "Then you look up and you realize, 'Oh, he had a great game.' You kind of take it for granted sometimes.'' The Rockets (28-23) are 12-3 when Harden scores at least 30 points. "I'm just focused on rallying these guys together, every single game,'' Harden said. "If I'm leading and showing my work ethic, they'll follow.'' Houston has won six of eight, with Harden shooting 56.3 percent in that stretch. He's also averaging 9.0 assists over the last four. "He's making shots and he's making plays,'' coach Kevin McHale said after Friday's win. "You look at a guy with 35 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and (he) threw a steal in there. It was really impressive.'' Harden, though, wasn't nearly as good against Sacramento during his tenure with Oklahoma City. In 10 games off the bench, Harden shot 43.2 percent and averaged 11.4 points - his worst average against any team. He'll look to improve on those numbers against a Kings team coming off a 120-109 home win over Utah on Saturday that ended a four-game losing streak. Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 25 points, Marcus Thornton finished with 24 and Jason Thompson added 21 for Sacramento (18-33), which had lost eight of its previous nine contests. The last six of those were on the road, meaning Saturday's was the first home game since the team formally filed for permission to relocate to Seattle. "I think (the fans) got us the win,'' Thomas said. "They brought us energy and you guys saw it from the jump. We were energized and we looked like a totally different team, especially on the offensive end. We were sharing the ball, we were smiling, everything. It was a good thing.'' DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points and 11 rebounds, marking only his second double-double in his last eight games - a stretch in which he's averaged 12.8 points and 7.3 boards. He averaged 21.7 points and 13.3 rebounds while posting a double-double in each of his previous six. The Kings have lost four straight home matchups with the Rockets, falling 104-87 in the most recent meeting April 8. Houston, though, has dropped eight of its last 11 on the road while averaging 98.8 points. The Rockets have averaged 114.9 points in their last nine home games. Sacramento likely will have to concern itself with more than simply trying to stop Harden in this contest. Chandler Parsons is shooting 59.5 percent in his last seven games and Omer Asik ranks third in the league with 11.5 rebounds per game - including 15.7 over his last seven. "We can hurt you in so many different ways,'' Parsons said.
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