|Date of game: 12/22/2014
Recap: Houston vs. Portland
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden padded his NBA scoring lead with 44 points as the Houston Rockets manhandled the LaMarcus Aldridge-less Portland Trail Blazers, 110-95, on Monday.
The Blazers upended the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs last season, but without Aldridge, who sat with an illness, Portland had no one step up to match Harden's production.
Harden only played 32 minutes, shot 14-of-26 from the field and only missed one of his 13 free throw attempts to tie his season-best point total. He added seven assists and five steals for good measure.
"I was aggressive," Harden said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me and putting me in a position to be successful."
Dwight Howard recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while newly acquired Corey Brewer donated 12 points off the bench for Houston, which had dropped two straight coming in.
Brewer, brought in from Minnesota in a three-team deal last Friday, also recorded five steals and help force Portland into 23 turnovers.
Damian Lillard needed 16 shots to score 18 points for the Blazers, who had their five-game winning streak snapped. They still lead the Northwest Division and cap their four-game road trip against the second-place Thunder on Tuesday.
Harden and Brewer worked a textbook give-and-go in transition that ended with a Harden slam late in the first quarter, and Houston held a 37-33 edge going into the second.
The Blazers were still within four, 49-45, with five minutes left to go in the half, but a Brewer jumper kick-started a 14-2 Houston run.
Harden netted eight points during that stretch and capped his 31-point, five- steal, five-assist first half with a bucket at the buzzer, and the Rockets took a healthy 73-53 advantage into the locker room.
The Rockets cooled off in the third, hitting only a third of their 21 shots, but Portland only got as close as 14.
Jason Terry ended the quarter with his 2,000th career 3-pointer, joining Ray Allen and Reggie Miller as the only NBA players to reach the milestone. The triple gave Houston a 96-76 advantage, and the outcome was never in question the final 12 minutes.
"We didn't give them much resistance in the first half...and we weren't able to mount a legitimate comeback," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said.Game Notes
Harden has scored 40-plus points in three of his last six games ... Meyers
Leonard started in place of Aldridge and scored 13 points ... C.J. McCollum
netted 17 points for the Blazers, who were outscored in the paint, 44-36.