James Harden might be back in the lineup for the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, but they may not even need him.
The Rockets look to maintain their grip on a playoff spot when they meet the Sacramento Kings to start a three-game road trip.
Harden, fifth in the NBA with 26.0 points per game, missed his second straight contest Monday with a sore right foot. The Rockets didn't miss him at all, jumping out to a 25-point lead en route to beating Orlando 111-103 for their fifth win in seven games.
Houston (41-33) was also missing second-leading scorer Chandler Parsons, out with food poisoning, but the team never trailed as Omer Asik matched a career-high with 22 points and Jeremy Lin had 19 points and 11 assists.
"You can always do anything with any five players," Lin said. "It's just a matter of buying into it and going through the kinks of doing something new at this point."
The Rockets are seventh in the Western Conference and have been resting Harden to give his foot a chance to heal in time for the playoffs. Houston trails Golden State by one game for the sixth seed.
Harden said Monday his injury suffered Feb. 12 against the Warriors was "getting better every single day."
The Rockets have played once on the road over their last 10 games, a 103-94 loss to Memphis on Friday. They have struggled away from Houston, posting a 14-22 record that includes a 117-111 defeat to Sacramento on Feb. 10.
The Kings (27-47) have long been out of the playoff race, but the organization is fighting for something larger Wednesday. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson will be in New York to present to NBA owners a plan to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle, including an ownership group and approved arena financing plan.
The owners meet in mid-April to vote on whether to accept a possible bid from Seattle that would clear the way for the Kings to relocate.
"Nobody knows if this story will last until the 18th and 19th, if it will end this week, if it will go to Seattle or if it will go to Sacramento," said James Ham, who covers the team for the website Cowbell Kingdom and was a producer of the documentary "Small Market, Big Heart," which chronicled Sacramento's fight to keep the Kings from moving to Anaheim. "There's no rhyme or reason to this story. It goes where it wants to go, and there's no stopping it.
"There is no end to this story yet. Their last chapter hasn't been told yet. And until it is told, I think a lot of people aren't sleeping well, be it Seattle, be it Sacramento, be it at the NBA offices."
Sacramento has been off since a 103-98 loss to the Lakers on Saturday in the opener of a five-game homestand. The Kings failed to win three in a row for the second time this season.
This game marks the first matchup since these teams completed a trade at the Feb. 21 deadline that sent Francisco Garcia, Thomas Robinson and Tyler Honeycutt to Houston in exchange for Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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