- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - James Harden spent the fourth quarter smiling on the Houston Rockets‘ bench. DeMarcus Cousins finished the final period in the Sacramento Kings‘ locker room.

Their performances were just as different on the floor, too.

Harden scored a season-high 43 points in three quarters, and the Rockets routed the Kings 129-103 on Tuesday night after Cousins was ejected for vehemently arguing with an official.

“These are the type of wins that we need, especially late in the season, to lock down and focus,” Harden said.

Harden helped Houston go ahead by 25 points in the first quarter, 31 in the second and 33 in the third. He shot 11 of 20 from the floor, made 15 of 16 free throws and added eight assists, three steals and two rebounds.

Dwight Howard left briefly after banging his right knee but returned to finish with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Chandler Parsons had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who have won 10 of their last 11 games.

“You get a big lead early you’re always a little concerned about keeping everybody’s interests. They did a nice job,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.

Cousins had 16 points and six rebounds for the Kings before needing to be restrained after getting ejected in the third quarter. He picked up his NBA-leading 14th and 15th technical fouls.

“He lost his composure, that’s all I saw, and then he got thrown out of the game. It’s disappointing. But to be honest, I’m more disappointed about how we played,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “Do I condone his actions? No, not at all. Does he have to handle himself better? Sure he does. We just need to get him to understand that we don’t need him to get kicked out of the ball game.”

Cousins did not speak with reporters but wrote on Twitter: “Disappointed with the way I acted out on the court tonight. I want to apologize and say sorry to my team and the fans for letting them down.”

Rudy Gay added 25 points and six assists, and Ben McLemore scored 15 points for a Sacramento team that looked nothing like the one that beat the Rockets twice previously this season. The teams split four games.

The Rockets outshot Sacramento 56.9 percent to 40 percent. It was the most points the Kings had allowed all season, surpassing a 125-117 loss at Denver on Jan. 26.

Sacramento was trying to win three consecutive games for only the second time all season. Instead, Harden and the Rockets turned the game into a layup line.

Harden had 22 points and four assists in the first quarter to help Houston go ahead 42-17. The only downer during the run came when Howard and Cousins banged knees. Howard limped to the locker room and returned with black leggings underneath his shorts midway through the second quarter.

“It still hurts. I’ll just try to do whatever I can to prevent my knee from getting too stiff to where I can’t play,” said Howard, who hopes to start again Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Clippers.

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