James Harden paired 37 points with nine assists while Ben McLemore and Austin Rivers added valuable double-digit scoring production off the bench as the Houston Rockets cruised to a 123-112 victory over the visiting New York Knicks on Monday.
The Rockets have won eight of 10 by outflanking the opposition from the 3-point line, and they extended to a 25-point lead before cooling off when both benches cleared in the fourth period. Houston excelled offensively without guard Russell Westbrook, who was a late scratch (left thumb).
Harden, Westbrook and P.J. Tucker arrived just over an hour prior to tipoff after taking a private jet from Los Angeles following the memorial service for Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
McLemore scored 17 points on 4-for-9 3-point shooting while Rivers chipped in 14 points, including nine in the third quarter. Eric Gordon, inserted into the starting lineup for Westbrook, scored 16 points over 28 minutes before departing in the second half with left knee soreness.
The Rockets have won eight consecutive games against the Knicks, who have followed a season-best four-game winning streak with four consecutive losses. Rookie RJ Barrett paced the Knicks with 21 points while Julius Randle added a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds).
Dennis Smith Jr. tallied 15 points and a career-high seven steals for the Knicks.
Barrett provided the Knicks a measure of optimism with 14 first-quarter points, and his running layup with 3:20 left in the period capped a 15-2 run and spotted the Knicks a 27-24 advantage.
But McLemore closed the frame with a 3-pointer and added another following a Jeff Green 3 that opened the scoring in the second quarter. Houston quickly extended to a 44-33 lead, and when the Knicks clawed within 53-49 midway through the period, Harden responded with 13 consecutive points as Houston reclaimed control. Harden matched his season high with 31 first-half points, doing so on just 16 shot attempts while converting 4 of 5 3-pointers.
--Field Level Media