Coming off a convincing win on Friday night in Chicago, the Pacers were hoping to keep the momentum rolling on Sunday against James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
But Harden and Co. had other ideas, as the Rockets (11-3) showed why they currently have the best record in the Western Conference in a 118-95 win over Indiana (6-8). Harden led the way, racking up 26 points and 15 assists in the victory.
“James is just a special player with his ability to not only score and to assist the ball,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said after the loss. “If you switch, he takes advantage of the switch and the matchup. We did pretty much everything we could do except stop them.”
Though they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Rockets raced out to an early lead, opening Sunday’s contest with an 18-4 run.
The Pacers’ offense eventually woke up, but Houston kept it rolling on the other end. The Rockets scored 18 points in the paint and another 15 from beyond the 3-point arc in the frame to take a 35-18 lead. Harden, Houston’s All-NBA guard, dished out nine assists in the opening 12 minutes to ignite one of the league’s top offenses.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive, be aggressive and good things happen,” Harden said. “Whether it’s for (myself) or for (my) teammates. I go into every game with the mindset of being aggressive.”
Domantas Sabonis and the second unit gave Indiana a much-needed spark to start the second quarter. The 6-10 Lithuanian scored nine straight points as Indiana opened the period with an 11-0 run.
The Pacers’ bench was able to eventually trim the deficit to five on TJ Leaf’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 8:17 left in the half. But Harden returned and helped Houston maintain the advantage until halftime, as the visitors took a 63-51 lead into the break.
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Victor Oladipo scored nine points in the third for Indiana, but the Blue & Gold weren’t able to make any headway. Harden scored 12 points himself in the frame and the Rockets stretched their lead to 87-71.
“It’s tough,” Oladipo said. “We’re making twos, making baskets; they’re trading it with threes. They do a great job of spreading the floor on offense, making it tough for us to do things defensively. Credit to them, they played real well.”
The Rockets pushed the margin to 20 points early in the fourth quarter and the Pacers never seriously threatened the rest of the way, as Houston handed Indiana its fifth loss in its last six games.
Oladipo led all scorers with 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting in the loss. Sabonis added 17 points and five rebounds off the bench while going 7-for-10 from the field.
Myles Turner was the only other Pacers player to finish in double figures. The third-year center tallied 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, eight rebounds, and three blocks.
In addition to Harden, Clint Capela recorded a double-double for Houston, racking up 20 points and 17 rebounds. Indianapolis native Eric Gordon added 21 points and four assists, while Trevor Ariza chipped in 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting from 3-point range.
The Pacers will have two days off before they return to the court on Wednesday night in Memphis against Mike Conley and the Grizzlies at 8:00 PM ET.
Inside the Numbers
Lance Stephenson provided Indiana with a bit of a spark off the bench. He had eight points, a season-high 10 rebounds, and three assists in 23:40.
Pacers captain Thaddeus Young did not score against the Rockets, going 0-for-7 from the field. Young had scored in double figures in nine straight games prior to Sunday.
The Rockets entered the night shooting 3-pointers at a record pace, attempting 44.7 shots from beyond the arc per game and attempting 53.9 percent of their field goals from long range. On Sunday, 47 of Houston’s 90 shots came from beyond the arc (52.2 percent), and they made 17.
Harden’s 15 assists were his most this season. He joins Pacers point guard Darren Collison, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, and Washington’s John Wall as the only NBA players with 15 or more assists in a game this year.
Capela’s double-double was his eighth of the season.
You Can Quote Me On That
“It came down to getting some spots tonight. You’re not stopping them, you’re playing against a set defense, and most teams are better when the defense is set. You got to make reads when teams start switching as much as they do. It forces you to play one-on-one basketball because of that type of defense.” -McMillan on the Pacers’ offense
“They cut out from the first play. They executed their stuff, got out and ran and our communication was really bad in transition.” -Turner
“They got out and started making their threes. We had a little trouble matching up in transition. Second unit came in and played great and brought us back into the game. It’s just tough to get back in the game when they play well.” -Oladipo
“We’ve been playing well. Everybody was trying to figure themselves out the first few games of the year, we had a bunch of new faces and we were trying to put things together; but everything is working out now. Everybody is figuring out where to be on the floor and when to shoot.” -Gordon
Stat of the Night
All but six of Houston’s 118 points came from inside the paint, outside the 3-point arc, or at the free throw line. The Rockets tallied 46 points in the paint, 51 points from beyond the arc, and 15 points from the charity stripe.
- The Pacers are 37-53 all-time against the Rockets, including a 23-22 record in games played in Indianapolis. Prior to Sunday, Indiana had won three straight games against Houston.
- Sunday’s victory was the largest road victory in the history of the Pacers-Rockets series, eclipsing Houston’s 20-point win over Indiana on Nov. 17, 1981 at Market Square Arena.
- Harden and Collison received double technical fouls with 4:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Pacers visit Memphis to take on the Grizzlies on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 8:00 PM ET.
The Pacers will host the Detroit Pistons in their first Hickory Night game of the season on Friday, Nov. 17 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »
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