Harkless sets career high, Magic fall to Rockets
HOUSTON (AP) — Playing without their top two scorers, the Houston Rockets stumbled onto another effective way to put up points.
Omer Asik matched his career high with 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, and the Rockets hardly missed James Harden and Chandler Parsons in a 111-103 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
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Harden sat out for the second straight game with a sore right foot and Parsons missed the game with an illness. So the Rockets turned to Asik and 6-foot-10 Greg Smith and found easy baskets inside most of the night.
“You can always do anything with any five players,” point guard Jeremy Lin said, “it’s just a matter of buying into it and going through the kinks of doing something new at this point.”
Lin had 19 points and 11 assists, most of them to Asik. The 7-footer made 11 of 13 shots — most of them dunks — and Smith added 12 points.
“They both have the ability to finish around the rim and create a lot of problems,” Lin said.
Rookie Maurice Harkless scored a career-high 28 points and Beno Udrih had 17 points and 10 assists for the Magic, who rallied from 25 points down to pull within five late in the fourth quarter. But Orlando couldn’t quite pull off the comeback, and lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
“These guys don’t quit,” Harkless said. “No one on this team quits.”
The early deficit turned out to be too much to overcome.
Smith started the game with a one-handed dunk and the Rockets were off and running. Smith and Asik got any shot they wanted early on and the Rockets opened with a 21-6 spurt.
“We needed the chance to score inside,” Asik said, “and we needed it to be easy for us.”
The Magic not only offered little defensive resistance inside, they also missed 10 of their first 14 shots, one of them an airball from the corner by DeQuan Jones. Houston stretched the lead to 20 with Asik and Smith on the bench resting for the final three minutes of the opening quarter.
Orlando cut the deficit to 11 early in the second quarter, but Asik got open for another dunk with 6:06 left in the half and the Rockets widened the gap again. Donatas Motiejunas finished a fast break with a layup and Carlos Delfino rattled in a 3-pointer from the corner for a 53-36 lead.
Asik had a double-double by halftime — 14 points and 12 rebounds — and overpowered any Orlando big man who tried to get in his way. The Rockets shot 53 percent (26 of 49) in the first half and led by 22 at the break.
“We didn’t have a stop (defensively) on the first 11 possessions of the game,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We have to have a better mindset and focus going into the game.”
Houston coach Kevin McHale, meanwhile, liked how the offense functioned with Asik and Smith on the floor together. When Orlando collapsed its defense, the perimeter opened for 3-point shots.
“If we move, read and react, I think we would be able to play those two,” McHale said. “We’ve got to have an offensive set where we look in there, get off it and start playing our style.”
The Magic mounted a 17-4 run early in the third quarter, but could only get within 12. Lin bounced a pass to Asik for another dunk and sank a 3-pointer to restore a 17-point lead. Asik grabbed his 18th rebound off a Harkless miss and heaved a baseball pass to Lin for a layup and an 85-66 lead.
Asik and Lin were relaxing on the bench in the fourth quarter and the game’s outcome seemingly in hand. But Tobias Harris scored six points and Udrih sank a 3-pointer during a 14-2 Orlando run that trimmed the deficit to five with about two minutes left.
McHale was ready to re-insert the starters if the game had gotten any tighter.
“I was getting pretty close,” he said.
But James Anderson, who started for Harden, tipped in a Delfino miss and the Rockets hung on to go eight games over .500 for the first time this season.
Notes: Orlando’s first-quarter point total (14) was a season low for a Houston opponent. … Harris had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando. … Asik has 31 double-doubles this season. … Garcia started in Parson’s place. … The Rockets recalled F Terrence Jones from their developmental league affiliate in Rio Grande Valley. The 6-foot-9 Jones has averaged 19 points and nine rebounds in 24 games for the Vipers this season.