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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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Rockets avenge earlier season loss with rout of Pacers

Rockets hand the Pacers their worst lost of the season

Posted: March 8, 2014 -- 12:24 am CST.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets blew open a seven point halftime lead with a spectacular third quarter and proceeded to plaster the Indiana Pacers 112-86 Friday night inside Toyota Center and in front a national tv audience. With the rout, the Rockets avenged their 33 point loss to the Pacers on December 20, 2013.

"It was just one of those games where it was a fun game to watch," head coach Kevin McHale said after the game. "As a fan of basketball, it was fun to watch the team play like that."

The Rockets outscored the Pacers 38-16 in the third quarter.

James Harden scored as many as points as the Pacers in the third. Harden shot 6 for 8 from the floor (3 for 4 on threes) in the 11 magnificent minutes as the crowd erupted with euphoria with chants of "MVP! MVP! MVP!"

"He (Harden) played great tonight," Kevin McHale said. "He kind of set the tone and in the third quarter. That was just great basketball. Everybody, James caught fire; defense was great; we were running."

Harden said of the quarter, "Definitely, the third quarter was probably the best I've seen us play offense and defense in one quarter. We were rolling. These last weeks we've been rolling on both ends."

"I think the first quarter was great," said Dwight Howard. "But, I think the third quarter was where we really did a lot of damage. They (the Pacers) came out and scored a couple of buckets and kind of got it going for a second and then our defense picked up.

"I believe, that if our defense is great for the rest of the season, we will have a great opportunity to do something special. We've got to learn from tonight's game and how we played on the defensive end and try and that every night."

The Rockets (43-19) led the Pacers (46-16) 27-16 at the end of the first 12 minutes. Pat Beverley scored seven points (3 for 3 field goals) in the opening period. The Rockets shot 57.1% (12 for 21) from the floor. Ten of the 12 buckets came from assists. Six Rockets scored in the quarter.

The Pacers bounced back a bit in the second quarter and finished the quarter with a spurt to trim the Rockets' lead to just seven (50-43) at halftime.

"They started catching a little bit of rhythm in that second quarter," McHale said after the game. "The team got slowed down a little bit and stuff so we said, "Hey, we gotta push it; get stops; run; and try not to let them get on defense.' We did a good job of that. We did a great job of pushing it."

The Rockets led 88-59 after 36 minutes.

"We just have to continue to play our brand of basketball," Harden said. "It was a playoff atmosphere in there. It was sold out. The fans did a great job of being behind us. (Give) credit to them. Every game from here on out is going to count; and, we have to take advantage of those."

Rockets' rookie Troy Daniels scored his first points of his NBA career in the fourth quarter. Daniels finished the game with five points on 2 for 4 field goal shooting.

Harden scored a game-high 28 points in 30 plus minutes of action. Dwight Howard scored 15; Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons each scored 11 and Donatas Motiejunas added 10 points.

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