HOUSTON (AP) - James Harden and the Rockets were determined to make up for their most lopsided loss of the season when they got a second shot at Indiana on Friday night.
Not only did Houston do that, but it handed the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers their biggest defeat in the process.
Harden had 28 points and the Rockets used a huge third quarter to turn a close game into a blowout in a 112-86 win over the Pacers.
Harden scored 16 in Houston’s 38-point third quarter, which turned a three-point lead into a 29-point advantage. He also got into a dustup with Evan Turner that resulted in both players receiving technical fouls.
Indiana won by 33 the first time the teams met on Dec. 20 in Indianapolis.
“That’s all we talked about,” Howard said. “Every timeout and every possession. We wanted to get payback. It was good for us to come out (Friday) and stay on them for four quarters.”
David West had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, losers of three straight for the first time this season.
“We’re just putting the emphasis on trying to get better,” Indiana center Roy Hibbert said. “Since the All-Star break we haven’t been playing the best basketball. We’ve been playing awful.”
But Pacers coach Frank Vogel isn’t too concerned about his team despite the skid.
“Every team I’ve ever been a part of has had a stretch like we’re in right now,” he said. “And since I’ve been here we’ve always worked our way out of it, so I’m sure we will. It stinks right now. It’s not fun right now, but we’ve got a good team and we’ll regroup.”
Howard finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin added 11 points apiece for the Rockets.
The Pacers shot 6 of 18 in the third quarter with four turnovers and managed just 16 points - matching Harden’s total.
Paul George, who finished with 13 points, scored two quick buckets to start the second half and get the Pacers to 50-47. The Rockets scored the next nine points as part of a 16-2 run that pushed the lead to 66-49. Howard sailed high above the rim to grab a pass from Parsons, who threw it over a leaping Hibbert, and finished with a two-handed dunk.