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Rockets blast off on Kings

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POSTED January 23, 2014 12:48 a.m.

HOUSTON (AP) — Dwight Howard and James Harden combined for 50 points in just three quarters to help the Houston Rockets cruise to their third straight win, a 119-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

Howard had 26 points and 13 rebounds and Harden added 24 points with nine assists before the pair went to the bench for the fourth quarter.

The Rockets took the lead midway through the first quarter and didn’t trail again. The Kings struggled after losing top scorers Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins to injuries before halftime.

Gay, who tied a career high with 41 points on Tuesday night, injured his left Achilles tendon in the first quarter and Cousins sprained his left ankle in the second.

Derrick Williams scored 22 points with 11 rebounds and Isaiah Thomas added 20 points for the Kings.

Houston led by 15 points entering the fourth quarter and padded their lead with Harden and Howard relaxing on the bench in their warm-up shirts.

They used a 15-3 spurt in the first 4½ minutes of the fourth to make it 103-76. Sacramento missed eight shots, including three layups in that time, and its only points came on free throws by Williams.

The Rockets were up by nine points early in the third quarter before scoring 10 straight points to stretch their advantage to 65-46. Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley both had 3-pointers in that stretch.

Jimmer Fredette made a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to 11 points with about eight minutes left in the second quarter. Cousins went down on Sacramento’s next possession when he was knocked to the ground by a hard foul from Beverley as he drove to the basket. Beverley stood over him for a second while he was down and Beverley received a technical.

Cousins entered the game leading the team in scoring (23.1) and rebounding (11.7). He scored just two points before getting hurt, snapping a streak of 30 straight games with at least 10 points.

The Rockets used a 6-2 spurt after that to extend the lead to 44-29.

Sacramento got within eight two times after that in the second quarter, but Howard scored six points with two alley-oop dunks in the last 1½ minutes of the first half to help the Rockets lead 55-44 at halftime.

The Kings were up by five points early before Houston used a 14-5 run to take a 21-17 lead with about three minutes left in the first quarter. Gay, who entered the game averaging 20.2 points, was injured at the beginning of that run, which was powered by eight points from Harden.

Gay has started all 21 games for the Kings since being traded from Toronto on Dec. 9.

Aaron Gray received a flagrant foul soon after that when he grabbed Harden as he was heading to the basket. Harden made both free throws as part of an 8-2 run by Houston that left the Rockets up 29-22 at the end of the first.

Omri Casspi added 20 points and tied a career-high with 12 rebounds and Parsons added 19 points with 10 rebounds.

NOTES: Houston’s Terrence Jones missed his second straight game with a deep thigh bruise and Ronnie Brewer sat out with a sore calf. ... Sacramento’s Quincy Acy and Harden both received technical fouls on the same play in the third quarter. ... Thomas has made at least one 3-pointer in 35 straight games, tying the fourth-longest streak in franchise history.

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