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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 scores 31 of his 37 in first half; Rockets defeat Knicks 123-112

Byron L. Riley, CPA; 832-303-3995; Do you need tax help? IRS Tax help available- Free Consult

Updated: February 25, 2020 -- 7:14 a.m. CT

Posted: February 24, 2020 -- 11:55 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets handled the New York Knicks 123-112 Monday night. With the win tonight, the Rockets have won eight straight against the Knicks, tying for their second-longest winning streak in the all-time series. Houston has won four in a row after losing consecutive games on Feb. 7 and Feb. 9. New York has lost four straight after winning a season-high four in a row prior.

James Harden lit up the Knicks with 31 of his game-high 37 points in the first half. Harden scored 19 in the second quarter on 8 of 9 field goal shooting. After allowing 33 points to the Knicks in the first 12 minutes, the Rockets held the Knicks to 24 points in the second quarter and outscored the Knicks 36-24 to lead 72-59 at the half.

"Well, I think (Harden is) a great player, great offensive team," Knicks Head Coach Mike Miller said. "As strange as it sounds, we gave too many easy baskets. There were four or five coverage plays in the first half, there were a couple straight-got-beat-off-the-dribble (plays), you can't give those away. You have a team that can attack you in some many different ways. You have to make them earn everything. I think you got too many easy ones early. We did a little bit better I think in the second half; but, at times we didn't execute."

Harden, Russell Westbrook, and P.J. Tucker were in Los Angeles earlier Monday to attend the Kobe Bryant Memorial Service. Harden acknowledged today was a long day.

"Long very, very emotional day," Harden said. "That's all I got to say, simple."

Harden said he, Tucker, and Westbrook wanted to pay their respects to the family.

"It's to pay our respects, show my condolences to the family," Harden commented. "Obviously, it's a tough time for them, for the entire world; so, it was a must that I be there and kind of show my respect."

The Knicks (17-40) got within 8 (90-82) with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter. However, Austin Rivers scored 9 of the Rockets last 11 points to put the Rockets up 101-86 heading to the fourth quarter.

"You got to stay locked in and remain focused on the big picture," Rivers remarked. "At this point, it's not about anybody having big games. It's just about us getting the third (or) second seed. That's where we're trying to get – all the way up there."

The Rockets stretched the lead to as much as 25 (117-92) with 7:03 remaining in the ball game. Houston took its foot off the gas pedal down the stretch which helped the Knicks outscore them 20-6 in the final minutes.

"You know – it wasn't anything to write home about," Rockets Head Coach Mike D'Antoni said after the game. "But, we went out and got the win; and, we'll get on to the next one."

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The Rockets next game is Wednesday, February 26, against the Memphis Grizzlies. Tip is set for 7 p.m.

Byron L. Riley, CPA; 832-303-3995; Do you need tax help? IRS Tax help available- Free Consult


Russell Westbrook did not play in the game due to a sore left thumb. Eric Gordon left the game in the 4th quarter due to a sore knee. Gordon didn't return to the game. He finished the game with 16 points.

Houston improves to 22-2 when scoring 120 or more points this season and 93-7 when doing so under head coach Mike D'Antoni going back to 2016-17. The Rockets are 28-2 when holding the opposition to 112 or fewer points this season. Opponents are averaging 111.4 points per game over the past nine games after averaging 120.8 points per game the five games prior.

Robert Covington had 4 blocks tonight. RoCo has recorded 3 or more blocks in each of the past four games, including 4 three times. Covington had 3 plus blocks twice in 48 games played for Minnesota this season. The four-game streak with 3 or more blocks is tied for the second-longest by a Rocket going back to 2005-06.

Austin Rivers had 14 points while shooting 2-of-3 from 3-point range. He has hit 2 plus threes per game in 11 of the past 15 games (43.9% 3FGs) after doing so 10 times over his first 38 games played (30.3% 3FGs). Rivers has scored 10+ points in nine of his past 17 games played after doing so three times the 16 games prior.

Ben McLemore had 17 points while shooting 4-of-9 from 3-point range. Over the past 22 games, he is averaging 11.1 ppg on 51.5% shooting after averaging 9.8 ppg on 40.4% shooting the first 35 games of the season. McLemore is shooting 11-of-17 from behind-the-arc over the past three games. Houston is 10-2 when he scores 17+ points.

Byron L. Riley, CPA; 832-303-3995; Do you need tax help? IRS Tax help available- Free Consult

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