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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Isaiah Canaan and Donatas Motiejunas help Rockets crown Kings

Posted: November 26, 2014 -- 11:20 pm.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- James Harden struggled mightily Wednesday night versus the Sacramento Kings. After making 4 of 6 field goals in the first quarter, Harden clanged his way to making just six more baskets out of 25 more field goal attempts. However, two of Harden's young teammates: Isaiah Canaan (career-high 24 points) and Donatas Motiejunas (career-high 21 points) combined for 45 points and helped carry the load offensively to help lead the Rockets to a 102-89 win over the Kings.

"They came in and both those guys played tremendously well for us", said head coach Kevin McHale after the game. "D-Mo (Donatas Motiejunas) played extended minutes. He did  great job out there for us. He made shots when we were kind of struggling, and kept our nose barely above water with a couple of those threes.

Canaan said, "I just took what the defense gave me. They (Kings) kept going under the screens and my natural reaction is to stop and shoot it so I made a couple and I stayed at it to try to milk the well until it ran out. My biggest thing was to try and take what the defense was giving me."

The Rockets' (12-3) defense in the first quarter kick-started the offense. The Rockets scored 16 points of the Kings' nine turnovers in the first quarter and raced to a robust 37-19 lead after the first quarter.

Harden and Motiejunas each made of 4 of six shots in the opening 12 minutes.

The Kings (9-6) pounded the ball inside to DeMarcus Cousins in the second quarter; and, Cousins responded with 8 points (3 for 5 field goals). Former Rockets' forward, Omri Casspi, chipped in six points while Derrick Williams and rookie Nik Stauskas each scored five points in the quarter to cut the Rockets' lead at the half to seven points (57-50).

James Harden shot just 1 for 7 from the field in the second stanza. Harden's shooting woes continued into the third quarter with ice cold 1 for 9 field goal shooting.

With Dwight Howard sitting out the game with a strained right knee, the Rockets had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins scored nine points in the third period.

While Harden struggled to make shots, Canaan made four three-point shots in the third quarter and scored 14 points overall in the third period, to help keep the Kings at bay.

"We try not to make any excuses," Canaan said. "Whoever is out there and ready to go, that's who we are going to go with. We believe we are going to win these games. We just have to go out there and compete and play defense and at the end of the game we should be on top."

The Rockets' lead shrunk to four points (77-73) at the end of the quarter.

Kings' forward Carl Landry made a jump shot to begin the fourth quarter scoring and trimmed the Rockets' lead to 77-75. But, Francisco Garcia quickly scored an easy lay-up to boost the lead to four. Motiejunas nailed a bank shot for a six point (81-75) Rockets' lead.

Minutes later, Harden ended his shooting drought by nailing a corner three-point shot for a 88-79 lead with five plus minutes remaining in the game. The Kings pulled within six points (91-85); but, Harden scored two points thanks to a goaltending call before icing the game with a steal and fastbreak dunk for a 95-85 lead with 2:07 remaining in the game.

The Rockets attempted 94 field goals in the game and only turned the ball over four times while the Kings attempted 71 field goals and turned the ball over 21 times.

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