While James Harden continues to lead the way for the Houston Rockets, one of the team's lesser-known names is also keying their success.
Harden and Carlos Delfino look to build on impressive efforts Wednesday night as the Rockets host the New Orleans Hornets, losers of three straight at Toyota Center.
After falling 122-116 at San Antonio on Friday and 124-94 to Oklahoma City the following night, Houston (17-14) got back on track Monday with a 123-104 win over Atlanta. Harden scored a game-high 28 points for the Rockets, who shot 53.6 percent and held a 48-38 scoring edge in the paint.
"Tonight was a must win for us," said Harden, averaging 26.1 points to rank fifth in the league. "We were on a five-game win streak and then we had two kind of bad losses and we needed to come back and play our brand of basketball and do whatever it takes to get a victory. We're getting better. We're playing as a team."
After sitting out against the Spurs and Thunder, Delfino returned to score a season-high 22 points while shooting 8 of 10 and posting a career high-tying eight assists off the bench Monday. The Rockets, 3-6 without Delfino, improved to 14-8 when he plays and 7-1 when he scores at least 11.
"He just lets the game come to him and makes the right play, the easy play," coach Kevin McHale told the team's official website. "The ball hits his hands and he moves it to the next guy. He just plays real solid and is a very good basketball player. I've always liked him."
The Rockets now face a Hornets team coming off a 95-86 loss to the Hawks on Tuesday. Three nights after debuting with 24 points off the bench in a 98-95 win at Charlotte, Eric Gordon shot 5 of 17 and scored 11 points.
Gordon sat out the first 29 games with knee troubles.
"We just didn't put up much of a fight," coach Monty Williams said. "We just didn't have execution and didn't play with a lot of force.
"I think everyone was waiting on (Gordon) to do something, be Superman. That's not what we're about. We're a team and I got to find a good rotation."
New Orleans (7-24), limited to 89.3 points per game during a 2-13 slump, could have a hard time keeping up against a Rockets team that's taken 11 of 14 at home while averaging 112.1.
"We need to just buckle down and go over there and get a win," Gordon said. "We just need to do a better job with the game plan."
New Orleans has dropped seven of 10 in Houston, including three straight while shooting 39.8 percent. The Hornets nearly erased a 21-point deficit during a 100-96 defeat there Nov. 14, but couldn't overcome Harden's 30.
Greivis Vasquez, who had 24 points and nine assists in that game, is averaging 17.1 and 10.1 over his last 10. He had 17 points, 10 assists and a career high-tying nine boards Tuesday.
The Associated Press News Service
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