Harden scores 22 points, Rockets beat Nuggets 109-99
DENVER (AP) — James Harden turned a slow start into a powerful finish.
Harden also had 11 assists, with several going to Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 24 points, including a series of dunks.
“I just take what the defense gives me,” Harden said. “I trusted the guys to make the right passes. Our bigs did a great job of finding those passing pockets. It requires patience, especially as a playmaker.
“It’s going to take time, but we’re getting there. If we keep guarding and defending at a high level our offense will come around. Once we put both together, it’s going to get scary.”
Houston, which had an NBA-high 65 wins last season, has won five of seven games since a 1-5 start.
“It’s starting to roll a little bit better,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said.
A step-back shot by Murray got Denver within four points midway through the fourth quarter but Harden went on a tear, scoring 11 straight Houston points to put the Rockets up 104-91 with 3:48 remaining.
Murray said trying to slow down Harden is tough, not only because of his skill level as a former league MVP but because of the because of the players surrounding him.
“They’ve got shooters all around,” Murray said. “They’ve got a great team. He’s surrounded by players you have to guard as well, not just James Harden, so it gives him a lot of space to operate in and he did that tonight.”
The Nuggets closed the gap to six points in the waning moments but the Rockets got a couple of free throws from Paul and a dunk from Capela to hold on.
“We got two really good wins (consecutively),” Paul said. “This was a good road win for us. They play well here at home. We’ll take it. We’re still just building.”
Down by a point at the break, the Rockets opened up an 86-76 lead going into the final quarter. After a pair of free throws by Paul Millsap pulled Denver to 74-72, the Rockets closed the final 4 1/2 minutes of the third period on a 12-4 run capped by Eric Gordon’s driving layup.
Murray hit a jumper in the final seconds of the second quarter to give the Nuggets a 55-54 halftime lead.
Rockets: G/F Gerald Green missed a second game due to a right ankle sprain, but is nearing a return. Green could be available to play as soon as their next game on Thursday night, according to D’Antoni. … C Nene remains sidelined by a right calf strain that has forced him to miss the past 12 games.
Nuggets: The loss was the first by double digits this season. … F Juancho Hernangomez was in the starting lineup for a second straight game. Hernangomez was inserted into the lineup as part of the Nuggets’ search for a replacement for injured Will Barton, who remains sidelined indefinitely with a hip injury.
Rockets: Host the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.
Nuggets: Host Atlanta on Thursday night.