When the third quarter started Wednesday night a Toyota Center, the Rockets held an 11-point lead over the Chicago Bulls. A little more than halfway through that third quarter, the lead was whittled down to three. When it ended, the Rockets led 83-66 in their 109-94 win.
After Luol Deng’s layup made it a 68-65 game, the Rockets broke off a 15-1 run, which put the game out of reach.
“We’ve been slacking these last couple games of closing quarters out,” Rockets guard James Harden said. “Coach is preaching us every quarter make sure we go on a little run, close the quarter out, and tonight we did it. We gotta be consistent with that.”
Harden played despite spraining his ankle on Sunday in Sacramento. He finished with an efficient 19 points on 13 shots, but he turned the ball over 7 times, and the ankle didn’t feel great after the game.
“I got it stepped on again early in the first quarter,” he said. “I just gotta play through it, try and forget about it.”
With Harden banged up, Dwight Howard stepped up. He made 11 of his 14 shots finishing with 23 points, and was one rebound shy of his seventh straight double-double.
“I thought Dwight was really good with the ball down in the post tonight,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
Howard himself didn’t have a big night on the boards, but the Rockets out-rebounded Chicago 35-31, and more importantly kept a team that averages close to 13 offensive rebounds a game to only nine.
“We know they’re the third best offensive rebounding team in the league, so we had to do a good job on Noah and Boozer,” he said. “Keeping those guys from getting easy rebounds and put-backs and stuff like that, and that’s what they thrive off of, especially Noah.”
The two Bulls bigs combined for 23 points on 10-for-23 from the field with 16 rebounds. Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 20.
Houston is now 17-9, and will hit the road for a Midwest back-to-back that takes them to Indianapolis for a showdown with the Pacers on Friday night.
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