HOUSTON – After beating Houston in the first two meetings this season, Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale said he expected the Rockets to come out swinging on Saturday night.
Sure enough, the Rockets jumped out to a 9-0 lead by draining three straight 3s in the first two minutes of the game and never looked back in their 111-96 win over Memphis.
James Harden scored 38 points, and Houston hit 16 of 45 (35.6 percent) from beyond the arc, including 6 of 14 from Harden, who added eight assists and four rebounds. Eric Gordon added 26 points on 6 of 11 3-point shooting for Houston.
“They had an edge tonight, which I expected,” Fizdale said. “They’ve got pride over there, and we had them 2-0 in the season series. We really expected them to come out hitting hard, but boy, they are tough when they’re making shots like that.”
Harden insisted Houston’s intensity had nothing to do with their previous two losses against Memphis.
“That’s every game for us,” Harden said. “Offensively, we want to be aggressive, defensively, we want to be aggressive and create opportunities.”
In their previous two meetings, Memphis held the Rockets to 90 and 89 points, the only two times the Rockets have been held under 100 points this season, and Houston’s lowest two scoring efforts ever under head coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Rockets outdid their previous scoring against Memphis by the end of the third quarter, entering the fourth with a 93-70 lead. The Rockets hit at least 16 3s for a fifth straight game, matching an NBA record they set last season for the most consecutive games with 16 or more 3s.
Defensively, the Rockets had a season-high tying 14 steals while forcing 20 turnovers and improved to 5-1 in games where they recorded 10 or more steals.
In their 98-90 loss at home to Memphis on Oct. 23, the Rockets were outscored 20-2 in the final six minutes. On Saturday night, they were much more proactive about answering any upswing in Memphis’ momentum.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, but as long as we’re consistent and we know what the long-term goal is, we’ll be all right,” Harden said. “There’s going to be times when we get up big and let it slip away, but tonight was a really good job of, when they went on a run, we sustained it and built it back up.”
Bucks 98, Lakers 90
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points to help the Bucks overcome Lonzo Ball’s triple-double for Los Angeles.
Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds. At 20 years and 15 days, he bested LeBron James by four days to become the youngest to accomplish the feat.
Warriors 135, 76ers 114
In Oakland, Kevin Durant returned from missing one game with a leg injury to finish with 29 points, leading Golden State past Philadelphia for its sixth straight win.
Pelicans 111, Clippers 103
In New Orleans, DeMarcus Cousins had 35 points and 15 rebounds and Anthony Davis added 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Spurs 133, Bulls 94
In San Antonio, Pau Gasol had 21 points and 10 rebounds and the short-handed Spurs beat Chicago, setting a season high in points despite missing a third of their roster Saturday night.
Cavaliers 111, Mavericks 104
In Dallas, Kevin Love had 29 points and 15 rebounds and Kyle Korver scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter.
Nuggets 125, Magic 107
In Denver, Jamal Murray scored a career-high 32 points, Will Barton had 26 points and nine rebounds — both season bests — and the Nuggets beat Orlando.
Knicks 118, Kings 91
In New York, Kristaps Porzingis returned after a one-game absence to score 34 points, and Courtney Lee added 20 in the Knicks’ victory over Sacramento.
Suns 118, Timberwolves 110
In Phoenix, Devin Booker and T.J. Warren scored 35 points apiece and the Suns snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Minnesota.
Wizards 113, Hawks 94
In Washington, Bradley Beal scored 19 points and the Wizards forced Atlanta into a season-worst 24 turnovers.
Jazz 114, Nets 106
In Salt Lake City, Donovan Mitchell scored 26 points, including four in the final minute, to lead Utah past Brooklyn.