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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets outscore Nuggets by 23 in 4th and win 130-104

Posted: December 31, 2019 -- 11:19 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets routed the Denver Nuggets 130-104 Tuesday night and improved to 23-11 this season. With the win tonight, the Rockets even the season series against the Nuggets 1-1 with two games remaining and have won a series-high seven straight at home vs. Denver.

Houston's Dynamic Duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 63 points, 13 assists, and 6 rebounds. However, a new dynamic duo emerged Tuesday night for the Rockets: Clint Capela (16 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes) and Isaiah Hartenstein (16 points and 12 rebounds in 18 minutes) combined for 32 points and 22 minutes on 13 for 20 field goal shooting.

Hartenstein's 16 and 12 is the first double-double in his NBA career. Over the past three games, Hartenstein is averaging 14.7 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game while shooting 73.1% from the floor.

"He had a great night tonight," Mike D'Antoni said of Hartenstein's performance.

After the game, Hartenstein said he and Russell Westbrook have developed great chemistry.

"I love playing with Russ," Hartenstein acknowledged. "He finds me every time. I try to get him as open as possible, too; so, me playing with him helps a lot. I've watched a lot of Steve(n) Adams and him play on video; so, that helped a lot, too."

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Houston led Denver 38-26 at the end of the first quarter and 69-52 at halftime. Houston led by 11 (86-75) with 4:18 left in the third quarter; but, the Nuggets outscored the Rockets 14-6 in the final minutes to cut Houston's lead to just 92-89 after 36 minutes.

"I was so proud of our starting group to come out of halftime and get back in the game and do it with defense," Michael Malone, Nuggets' Head Coach said after the game.

Eight seconds into the fourth quarter, Westbrook sank two free throws; then, Ben McLemore knocked down a three-point shot. Next, Harden scored on a floater; and, Westbrook scored a fastbreak layup for a 9-0 Rockets' run. Denver called timeout. But, after the timeout, McLemore made another three-point shot to extend the run to 12-0 for a 104-89 Rockets' lead with 9:29 remaining in the ball game.

Denver's Torrey Craig sank a three-point shot to end Denver's scoring drought; however, the Rockets put the game away with a 16-4 run to lead 120-96 with 2:57 left in the game.

"I think an 11-0 run for them to start (the fourth quarter), 18-3 overall and the ball game was over," Coach Malone added.

"Give them credit," Malone remarked. "They're a good team; but, a really disappointing fourth quarter."

Houston outscored Denver 38-15 in the fourth quarter and shot 13 for 21 - including 6 for 10 threes - in the fourth while limiting Denver to 6 for 25 field goal shooting.

Eric Gordon was the fifth player to score in double digits Tuesday night for the Rockets. Gordon shot 4 for 7 overall including 3 for 5 from three in 26 minutes of action.

"We're glad to have Eric (Gordon) back, who's a knock-down shooter that got to the rim a couple of times," Harden commented. "But, I think overall – everybody from top to bottom that got in the game was energized on both ends of the ball, and it showed."

Harden added, "We've got to find a way to sustain it for four quarters; but, once we get that, it's going to be pretty tough to beat us."

Houston's next game is Friday, January 3, at home, versus the Philadelphia 76ers. Tip is set for 7 p.m.


Dating back to 1988-89, Isaiah Hartenstein is the third player to have recorded at least 16 points and 12 boards in 18 or fewer minutes played (Jonas Valanciunas on January 5, 2018 and Hedo Turkoglu on November 25, 2000).

Westbrook scored his 28 points on 11 for 22 field goal shooting. Russ has scored 20 or more points in each of his past 11 games played, which is tied for the longest streak by a Rocket besides Harden since a 14-game span by Yao Ming from February 22 to March 20, 2006. Over that span, Westbrook is averaging 28.5 points per game on 46.9% shooting. The Rockets are 10-1 when he shoots 50.0% or better this season.

The Rockets have played on New Year's Eve in each of the past seven years with Harden scoring 30 or more points in every game (39.3 points per game). Harden has shot 50.0% or better from the floor in each of his past six games played, which is the longest streak of his career. Over his past 10 games played, Harden is averaging 38.8 points per game on 52.6% shooting.

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