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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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Harden helps Rockets overwhelm Blazers, 110-95

Harden ties career-high with 44 point in romp

Posted: December 22, 2014 -- 10:50 pm.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- James Harden was not going to allow the Rockets to lose a third consecutive home game. After losses to New Orleans and Atlanta (on Thursday and Saturday, respectively), Harden erupted Monday night and scored 31 points in the first half on his way to tying his career-high of 44 points in a 110-95 Rockets' win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

"These last two games we gave up two losses at home and that’s unacceptable and we wanted to come out here and not make it a third (loss), Harden said."

After a 2-2 tie, the Blazers raced to a 19-12 lead; but, the Rockets scored nine consecutive points to lead 21-19. The Blazers tied the game at 21; then, James Harden caught fire.

Harden scored 13 of the last 16 points for the Rockets in the first quarter; and, Harden assisted on new teammate Corey Brewer's first three-point basket in his Rockets' uniform.

The Rockets (20-7) led the Blazers (22-7) at the end of the first period. Harden finished the first quarter with 19 points (6 for 9 field goals, 1 for 2 threes, and 6 for 6 from the foul line.

After shooting 57.1% (12 for 21 field goals) in the first quarter, the Blazers made just six field goals (out of 18) in the second quarter while the Rockets shot 57.7% (15 for 26 field goals) in the second period.

"My teammates did a great job of playing fast. It was basically scoring fest in the first quarter and beginning of second (quarter). Our defense tightened up and we got some stops and made it even better," Harden acknowledged.

Harden scored 12 points in the second quarter to help the Rockets outscore the Blazers 36-20 and take a 73-53 lead into halftime. The 73 points are a season-high for the Rockets.

"Offensively we got rolling," Kevin McHale said after the game. "We got up and down. We got a good pace in the game, which we wanted. That's kind of how we can hopefully build a little bit on playing."

Harden and the Rockets cooled off in the third quarter. Houston made just 3 of his seven goals in the third period; but, the Rockets maintained the 20-point lead they enjoyed at halftime with a 96-76 lead after three quarters.

The Rockets did not allow the Blazers to get closer than 16 points throughout the fourth quarter.

Harden's 44 points led five Rockets' players in double-digit scoring. Dwight Howard tallied his 12th double-double (in 15 games) with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Corey Brewer scored 12 points off the bench. Patrick Beverley scored 11 points; and, Donatas Motiejunas chipped in 10 points and 8 rebounds.

Brewer's boundless energy sparked the Rockets' defense in the second quarter; and, in fact, Brewer finished the game with five steals in barely 23 minutes of action.

"He just goes out there and plays his game," Harden said of Brewer. "He plays extremely hard. He defends very well and he runs the floor and he knocks down the shot. He cuts well. He does it all. That's what we need, kind of instant energy off the bench."

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