HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had 26 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in just 29 minutes to lead the Houston Rockets to a 120-96 win over the New York Knicks on Friday night.
For Harden, it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as his last game against the Knicks when he tied a career high by scoring 61 points in a 114-110 win at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 23. Harden entered Friday averaging 43 points per game in his last three games against New York.
With the game largely in hand early, it marked just the sixth time this season Harden played less than 30 minutes. He entered Friday night second in the league with 37.0 minutes per game.
Chris Paul and Clint Capela both had double-doubles for Houston, with Paul getting 11 points and 10 assists and Capela adding 12 points and 15 rebounds.
With Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay sidelined with a sore left shoulder, Mario Hezonja started, posting 16 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. Hezonja’s triple-double was the first for the Knicks since Jan. 11, 2018, when Jarrett Jack had one against Atlanta.
Henry Ellenson also had 16 points off the bench for the Knicks, who lost their ninth straight on the road. Kevin Knox added 13 and Mitchell Robinson had 12.
Seven Rockets scored in double figures: Eric Gordon and Kenneth Faried each had 13, P.J. Tucker added 11, and Iman Shumpert 10.
The Rockets held the Knicks to just 16 points in the first quarter, a season low for opponents’ first-quarter scoring against Houston. The Rockets led 32-16 after the first quarter and held a 72-43 lead at halftime.
Winning for the seventh time in their last eight games, the Rockets swept the season series against the Knicks for the 12th time in the past 14 seasons.
With the victory, Houston (52-28) briefly pulled within a game of Denver for the second seed in the Western Conference playoff standings. Denver hosted Portland on Friday night. The Rockets have two games remaining in the regular season as they host Phoenix on Sunday and visit Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
The Knicks have lost eight of their last nine games overall.
Knicks: Were also without Kadeem Allen (concussion), Isaiah Hicks (sore left hip), Dennis Smith Jr. (sore lower back), Allonzo Trier (strained left calf) and Noah Vonleh (sprained right ankle). DeAndre Jordan did not play for a fourth straight game (coach’s decision).
Rockets: With coach Mike D’Antoni out with a stomach flu, assistant Jeff Bzdelik served as head coach for the game. … C Nene (coach’s decision) was the only player who did not enter the game for Houston.
Knicks: Host the Wizards on Sunday.
Rockets: Host the Suns on Sunday.