HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 38 points and the Houston Rockets used a huge second quarter to build the lead and get an easy 112-85 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
The Rockets trailed by as many as seven in the first quarter, but built a 62-44 lead at halftime behind a 40-point second quarter.
Houston was up by 22 at the start of the fourth and a 5-0 run, with a 3 from Harden, made it 102-78 with five minutes remaining. Coach Mike D’Antoni cleared the bench with 3 ½ to go after the Rockets extended that run to 10-0, with another 3-pointer from Harden.
The victory is Houston’s third in four games as the Rockets bounced back from a 108-94 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
Harden, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker managed just two 3-pointers combined against the Bucks on a night Houston went 16 for 52 from long range. The Rockets took a few less on Thursday with 40, but the trio fared way better in the area. Harden made five, Gordon added four and Tucker had one.
The Nuggets, who entered the day just a half-game behind the first-place Golden State Warriors, got 20 points from Jamal Murray as they lost for the second time in three games after winning their previous six. They did not shoot well on 3-pointers, making just four of 24, with three coming from Gary Harris.
The Rockets did a good job of feeding Clint Capela inside early and the center had 13 points and 11 rebounds by halftime. He finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The Nuggets had cut the lead to 13 midway through the third before a 3-pointer by Gordon started a 5-0 run that made it 76-58. Denver went on a 5-1 run, with a 3-pointer from Harris, after that but Harden ended the run with a 3 that left Houston up 80-63 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.
That 3-pointer started a 10-2 run by the Rockets, with the first eight points from Harden that left them up 87-65 entering the fourth.
Nuggets: Nikola Jokic had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists. … Harris scored 11 points. … Monte Morris scored 16 points off the bench.
Rockets: Capela extended his career-best streak of games with at least 10 rebounds to 11. … Gordon had 18 points. … Kenneth Faried sat out with a sore left knee. … Gerald Green missed the game with a strained groin.
Nuggets: Visit Oklahoma City on Friday night.
Rockets: Host Kings on Saturday.