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Rockets escape past Hornets, 100-96

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HOUSTON (AP) - James Harden scored 30 points, Omer Asik added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets held off the New Orleans Hornets 100-96 on Wednesday night.

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Harden went 10 for 20 from the field but only 1 of 7 from 3-point range. He reached 30 points for the third time in seven games with the Rockets.

Greivis Vasquez scored a career-high 24 for the Hornets, despite hurting his left ankle in the third quarter and briefly leaving the game. Anthony Davis had only eight points on 2-for-7 shooting.

The Rockets built a 21-point lead in the first half, but the Hornets played better defense in the second to close the gap.

Chandler Parsons sank a pivotal 3-pointer and fadeaway jumper late to help Houston win for the second time in five home games.

The Rockets took the floor while first-round draft pick Royce White remained absent from the team. The 6-foot-8 White called the team ``inconsistent'' in its efforts to help him cope with his anxiety disorder and fear of flying, and he sent out a series of often critical tweets throughout the day.

The team has said nothing publicly beyond a statement that said White was ``unavailable'' and that it would support him going forward.

After a slow start, the Rockets hardly seemed distracted.

Reserves Marcus Morris and Toney Douglas both hit a pair of 3s early in the second quarter as the Rockets surged to a 47-38 lead. Houston started 7 for 10 from the field overall in the quarter. Morris stayed on the floor when the starters returned, and scored on consecutive drives to stretch the lead to 52-40.

Morris just beat the halftime buzzer with another 3 to put the Rockets up 64-45. After hitting his first four shots, Vasquez didn't take a shot in the second quarter. Davis, coming off a 23-point, 11-rebound effort against Charlotte, had only one field goal and four points in the first half.

New Orleans defended the perimeter better in the third quarter and trimmed the deficit to six. Vasquez, fourth in the NBA in assists coming into the game, twisted his left ankle on a drive late in the third quarter, came out of the game and limped to the locker room.

Houston led 85-76 after three quarters, despite going 7 for 18 from the field and hitting only two 3s in the third.

The Rockets gave away four turnovers in the first 4 minutes of the final quarter. Vasquez returned and guarded Harden, who swished a jumper from the top of the key for a 95-88 lead with just over 4 minutes to go.

The 6-foot-9 Al-Farouq Aminu switched to guard Harden after that, and Harden passed to Parsons for a 3-pointer with 3:27 remaining, restoring Houston's double-digit lead.

Vasquez then sank a pair of 3s to fuel a quick 8-0 Hornets run that cut the gap to 98-96 with less than 2 minutes to play. Parsons just beat the shot clock with a fadeaway jumper to put Houston up by four.

Harden bit on Vasquez's head fake, landed awkwardly and was whistled for a non-shooting foul. Aminu missed a hurried 3-pointer, but Patrick Patterson couldn't corral the rebound and the ball went out of bounds. Vasquez missed a corner 3 at the buzzer, his only miss in four attempts from long range.

Notes: Houston coach Kevin McHale missed his third straight game since taking an indefinite leave to address a family matter in Minnesota. Assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said the team still has no timetable for McHale's return. ... Former Rockets center Ralph Sampson was honored at midcourt during a timeout in the second quarter. Sampson, the top overall pick in the 1983 draft who guided Houston to the 1986 NBA Finals, was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in September. ... The Rockets' 39 second-quarter points and 64 first-half points were season highs.

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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