Harden, Howard lead Rockets to 36-point blowout of Heat

James Harden (13) led all scorers with 28 points in only 28 minutes of playing time.

Troy Taormina/Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets were so bad on Friday night that coach Kevin McHale talked about retiring.

A day later, McHale felt much better.

James Harden scored 28 points, Dwight Howard added 23 and the Rockets rolled to a 115-79 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday night, rebounding quite nicely from their most lopsided loss of the season.

"What a difference a night makes," McHale said. "We played well. As bad as we were last night, we moved the ball pretty well tonight."

McHale said his team was "terrible" in a 111-83 loss at New Orleans on Friday night. But the Rockets used a 19-point second quarter from Howard to build a double-digit lead against Miami, and then put together a big run in the third before coasting to their biggest win of the season.

"The effort and the energy was just a little bit different," Howard said. "I don’t know what happened in that game (Friday night), but it happened … we’ve got to make sure that it doesn’t happen again."

Houston’s starters were benched early in the third quarter against New Orleans by a disgusted McHale. On Saturday night, they spent the fourth quarter on the bench with the Rockets leading by 34 after three.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh scored 15 apiece for Miami, which has lost four in a row.

"We’re trying to get our collective mental toughness together and we haven’t been able to do it and tonight was a big example of that," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We’ve talked about it in every single way and we simply have to do better and our guys understand that."

Bosh seemed frustrated with questions about why the Heat are struggling so much lately.

"I’m not trying to figure things out," Bosh said. "I’m just trying to win a game and trying to stop answering all these questions."

Josh Smith, who signed with Houston on Dec. 26, was used as a reserve after starting the previous four games, and Donatas Motiejunas started in his place. Smith brought the crowd to its feet with a one-handed dunk that made it 88-60 late in the third.

The Rockets opened the third quarter with an 18-4 run to build a 79-53 lead. Howard scored the first four points of the half before Harden chipped in with six straight points.

Jason Terry and Corey Brewer made back-to-back 3s to give Houston a 94-60 lead entering the fourth. The Rockets outscored Miami 33-11 in the third.

Howard’s big second quarter was highlighted by a play when he simply slapped the ball into the basket with one hand after a missed shot by Harden. He was fouled on the basket and made the free throw to extend Houston’s lead to 57-49 with less than two minutes left in the period.

Leading the way

Trevor Ariza led Houston’s defense with six steals, tying a career high.

"We were embarrassed last night," Ariza said. "We know we’re a better team that what we showed and the way we’ve been playing. Tonight we needed to try to turn things around. The best way to do it was to step it up on the defensive end and we did that."


Heat: It was the 11th straight game where Wade either led or tied for the team lead in scoring, his longest such stretch since an 11-game run in 2010. … Justin Hamilton missed the game in his recovery from a concussion.

Rockets: Terrence Jones (left leg nerve inflammation) and Alexey Shved (left ankle sprain) remain out. … Houston assigned Nick Johnson to its D-League affiliate.

Up Next

Heat: Host Brooklyn on Sunday.

Rockets: Visit Chicago on Monday.