HOUSTON –James Harden had 25 points and 13 assists as the Houston Rockets built a big lead early and held off a late rally to get a 128-104 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.
The Rockets had led by as many as 23 before the Magic begin chipping away at the lead. Serge Ibaka made a turnaround jump shot midway through the fourth quarter to cut Houston’s lead to nine points. Harden grabbed a bad pass from Evan Fournier not long after that and dished to Eric Gordon, who finished with a 3-pointer. Trevor Ariza added a 3-pointer for Houston to extend the lead to 112-97 with about four minutes remaining to put the game away.
Patrick Beverley made seven points after that to help extend the lead to 120-99 with less than two minutes left and send Houston’s starters to the bench.
It is Houston’s second straight win and the 10th loss in 13 games for the Magic.
Harden’s scoring slowed down a bit on Tuesday after he scored 41 and 42 points in his last two games. But his 13 assists ended a streak of four straight games where he had fewer than 10, which was a season-long drought.
Ibaka had 28 points for the Magic and Evan Fournier added 21.
Houston led by 12 early in the third quarter when Beverley and Ariza made consecutive 3-pointers to spark an 11-4 run that extended the lead to 81-62 with about seven minutes left in the quarter.
The Magic missed five shots in that span to help Houston pad its advantage.
The Rockets had pushed the lead to 20 points not long after that when the Magic finally got something going, and used a 16-5 spurt to get within 93-84 late in the third quarter. Gordon made one of two free throws after that to leave the Rockets up 94-84 entering the fourth quarter.
Fournier made six points to help Orlando cut the lead in that span, including four straight free throws late in that time.
Orlando led by nine points midway through the first quarter before Houston used a 15-6 run to take a 26-24 lead. Ibaka made two quick baskets after that before Houston scored the last nine points of the period to take a 35-28 lead into the second.
The Rockets scored the first six points of the second quarter, with four from Nene, to extend the lead to 41-28 and they led 70-54 at halftime.
Magic: Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and a season-high 19 rebounds. … The Magic made just six of 25 3-pointers. … D.J. Augustin added 11 points.
Rockets: Clint Capela had 17 points to extend his streak of games with at least 10 points to a career-high eight straight games. … Nene had 13 points for his fourth double-digit game in the last five. … Beverley had seven assists, to give him at least five in six of the last seven games.
Hakeem Olajuwon was honoured on Tuesday night as part of the team’s 50th anniversary celebration. The Hall of Famer, who helped the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994-95, is Muslim and was born in Nigeria, but has since become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He addressed new President Donald Trump’s travel ban before the game.
“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “I was thinking maybe a lot of people say things just to get elected and wouldn’t actually do it … I think in the first quarter you would make a mistake and have to adjust. I think this was a mistake that the president made.”
He hopes Trump will change course.
“You can adjust in the second half to make it work by pull(ing) everybody together,” he said. “This is an opportunity to pull everybody together instead of separating.”