As much as Dwight Howard has keyed the Houston Rockets’ surge, Terrence Jones’ production continues to be pretty important as well.
The Milwaukee Bucks know better than any opponent just how dangerous Jones can be.
Jones, Howard and the rolling Rockets look to rout the Bucks for the second time in three weeks Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
Houston (33-17) has won four in a row – one shy of a season high – as Howard has averaged 26.0 points and Jones 18.3 on 66.7 percent shooting.
Howard has scored at least 20 in every game during the win streak after totaling 21 points in back-to-back losses to Memphis.
"I’ve just been being patient and letting my teammates find me in the right spot and not rushing my shots," Howard said after getting 34 points and 14 rebounds in a 122-108 win over Phoenix on Wednesday.
That victory gave the Rockets an 11-0 record in the past six weeks when Howard scores at least 20, compared to 2-6 when he doesn’t.
For the season, though, Jones has proved to be just as vital to their success. Houston is 17-2 when the second-year forward surpasses his season average of 12.1 points, and he’s done so in every game of the win streak after failing to reach that mark in either loss to the Grizzlies.
"I think ever since he’s moved into the starting lineup, he’s been blossoming and growing," coach Kevin McHale said. "He’s still got a long way to go because he’s a young kid but he’s been playing very well for us."
Jones is averaging 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds in his last 11 games, including 36 and 11 in a 114-104 home win over the Bucks on Jan. 18. That’s the only time Jones has scored more than 25 in an NBA game.
"From a physical standpoint he outmuscled us," Milwaukee coach Larry Drew said after Jones shot 14 of 20 against his team. "We knew we had to slow down Dwight and slow down James Harden and defend those guys at the 3-point line, but you don’t factor in a guy like that having that type of game."
Howard chipped in 20 points and 14 rebounds that night, and he has won 16 of the last 17 games he’s played against Milwaukee.
That’s far from the only record that doesn’t bode well for the league-worst Bucks (9-40), who are 1-17 against the Western Conference this season and 2-16 overall in 2014.
They’re coming off a 110-100 defeat at Denver on Wednesday despite Larry Sanders’ career-high 25 points and season-best 15 rebounds. Khris Middleton also scored 25 as he hit five 3-pointers for the second straight game.
Milwaukee had only nine available players, then lost Luke Ridnour and Ersan Ilyasova to back problems during the game.
"We just came up short," Drew said. "Finally just ran out of bodies."
It’s unclear if Ridnour or Ilyasova will play Saturday, though it’s expected O.J. Mayo (illness) and Caron Butler (ankle) will remain out.
The Bucks have let their last seven opponents hit a combined 48.1 percent from 3-point range, and Houston is among the league leaders with 450 3s. The Rockets went 7 of 27 from beyond the arc against Milwaukee last month but were a season-best 11 of 16 on Wednesday.
Houston has shot better than 50.0 percent from the field in three straight games.