Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) – James Harden poured in 30 points and led a long-distance barrage that carried the Houston Rockets to a 113-99 win over the slumping Brooklyn Nets.
The Rockets rolled to their fourth consecutive victory on the strength of a 16-of-40 display from 3-point range, with Harden knocking down 4-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc and Trevor Ariza going 3-of-5 in a 12-point effort.
Donatas Motiejunas contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds to the triumph, with Josh Smith chipping in 13 points off the bench for Houston.
Brooklyn dropped its season-high sixth straight despite a big game from Mason Plumlee, who tallied a career-high 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds. Jarrett Jack and Bojan Bogdanovic each finished with 13 points in defeat.
“Every game the turnovers are hurting us and the missed shots are hurting us,” said Nets head coach Lionel Hollins, whose team committed 16 giveaways. “If you’re not putting up 95, 100 shots, every turnover matters. Every missed shot matters.”
Nets forward Kevin Garnett played just four-plus minutes before being ejected for an altercation with Dwight Howard with 7:53 left in the first quarter. Howard received a technical foul for the incident.
Houston started out red-hot, hitting its first seven shots en route to jumping out to a 23-14 lead. Tempers were heated as well, as Howard and Garnett were tangled underneath the basket during one stage of the stretch when the Brooklyn veteran tossed the ball at Howard’s direction after the All-Star center gave him a mild shove.
The two then stepped towards one another, with Garnett delivering a head butt to Howard’s jaw and the latter retaliating with an open right hand to the face before both players were ultimately restrained.
“In the good old days, that was a play-on. Now, they throw people out,” said Rockets head coach Kevin McHale of the skirmish. “I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
After order was restored, Houston was up by as many as 11 in the first quarter and owned a 37-28 advantage at period’s end behind Harden’s 15 points.
The Nets cut into the deficit in the second, putting forth an 11-3 run to pull within 50-48 on a trey from Joe Johnson. However, the Rockets ended the half on an 8-2 spurt and took a 60-52 lead into the break following a Harden triple.
Houston extended the margin in the third quarter with a strong showing from the perimeter. Motiejunas and Harden stroked back-to-back 3-pointers early in the frame to increase the lead to 68-54, and the margin later swelled to 18 after triples from Harden and Smith were part of a 7-2 stretch that made the score 86-68 in the stanza’s final minute.
The Rockets were in front by as much as 23 points several times in the fourth quarter, the last at 104-81 midway through the period before Brooklyn scored eight straight to close the gap.
Brooklyn went just 5-of-21 on 3-point attempts … Harden ended 9-of-13 from the field, while Motiejunas made eight of his 11 shots … The Nets played their third straight game without point guard Deron Williams, sidelined by a fractured rib … Houston had won 14 straight in the series prior to a 105-96 loss in Brooklyn on April 1 of last season.