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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 rout 76ers, 107-91, and win 7th straight game
Posted: March 8, 2019 -- 11:59 p.m.
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets spotted the Philadelphia 76ers a 2-0 lead nineteen seconds into the game. James Harden tied the game at 2; then, seconds later, Harden sank 1 free throw due to a defensive three-second call against the 76ers to put the Rockets ahead 3-2.
The lead went back and forth the next two minutes; however, when PJ Tucker sank a three-point shot for a 14-9 Houston lead, the Sixers did not get closer than three points the rest of the game. The Rockets led by as much as 24 points tonight and cruised to a 107-91 win over the Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic-less Philadelphia 76ers.
With Embiid (left knee soreness) and Marjanovic (bone bruise / mild, right knee sprain) out of action, Houston's Clint Capela took full advantage of his size and quickness advantage over Philly's Amir Johnson and Jonah Bolden. Capela finished the game with 18 points on 8 for 12 field goal shooting; 9 rebounds; and 4 steals in 29 minutes.
"We controlled the game defensively all game long," Capela said after the game. "They never really had a big run, and we never really felt threatened tonight."
Houston (40-25) led 37-21 after the first period.
"I think the first period set the table," Brett Brown, Sixers Head Coach said. "I think if you look at the respective periods afterwards, defensively – not too bad. The first period we dug ourselves in a hole and I give Houston credit. They did an excellent job at defending us. I just think that first period sort of set the table and we found it difficult to respond after that."
James Harden scored 31 points in 32 minutes; however, Harden had precautionary x-rays on his right wrist after the game. With 4 plus minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Harden hit the floor hard and aggravated the pain in his right wrist. After a few minutes, Harden got up and walked to the training room. He returned to the game minutes later and finished the first half with a lightning quick crossover dribble which put Philly's Jimmy Butler on skates and resulted in a Harden layup with 1.2 seconds remaining in the opening half.
"He's fallen on it (wrist) before; and, there's pain there. It's sore," Mike D'Antoni said of Harden's right wrist. "He just aggravated it."
Chris Paul commented, "If he (Harden) needs to take a game or two off, we got it. But, we need him (healthy)."
Paul finished the game with 4 points and 8 assists. Eric Gordon scored 17 points on 6 for 10 field goal shooting including 5 for 9 on three-point shots. In his last 3 games, Gordon is averaging 5.3 three made on 61.5% shooting over his past three games played.
"Yeah, that's what I do," Gordon said. "Knock down shots; and, try to play make for others."
With the win tonight, the Rockets split the season series against the Sixers for the second straight season and have won seven of the past eight at home versus Philly. Houston has won a season-high seven straight and is 23-5 over its past 28 home games after losing the first four at Toyota Center this season. The Sixers have lost three of their past four games after winning four of their previous five.
The Rockets have held consecutive opponents (Toronto with 95 on 3/5) below the century mark for the first time since 12/15-12/17. Dating back to last season, Houston is 43-5 when holding the opposition below 100 points.
"They know what we have to do to win – to get in the mix of winning a title," D'Antoni remarked. "And, we have to play great defense. We have to rebound. They want to win a title; and, they want to compete at least for a title. And, they know what they have to do. I'd say most nights they've been doing it here lately."
Tonight marked the 30th time James Harden has recorded at least 30 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists this season, which is twice as many as any other player has tallied in 2018-19.
Clint Capela had 18 points tonight after averaging 7.7 points per game the three games prior. Dating back to last season the Rockets are 46-10 when he scores at least 15 points.
Houston held Philly to 3-of-26 (11.5%) shooting from 3-point range tonight which is third time the Rockets have held an opponent below 12.0% shooting from behind-the-arc with at least 25 attempts in franchise history (last vs. Denver on 2/9/18). Over the past three games, opponents are shooting 23.3% from downtown after shooting 40.0% the eight games prior.
The Rockets' next game is Sunday, March 10, in Dallas, versus the Mavericks, at 6 p.m.
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