HOUSTON (AP) - Since signing with Houston this summer, Dwight Howard has been telling everyone that Terrence Jones had a chance to be a very good player.
Lately, Jones has been making his new teammate look pretty smart.
Jones had a career-high 36 points and 11 rebounds, and the Rockets led from the start in a 114-104 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
“He’s been doing an excellent job,” Howard said. “He’s still growing as a player and he’s learning the game at a very fast pace, which is great.”
Jones had 25 points by halftime, matching his previous career-best set on Wednesday, and James Harden added 22 points. The second-year player has averaged 22.25 points in Houston’s four games this week.
“I was just trying to offensive rebound and do all the little things I’ve been doing,” said Jones, who had six offensive boards. “It was just coming to me tonight.”
Houston led by 17 points before the Bucks got within six points in the third quarter. The Rockets responded with a big run to extend the lead and hold on for the victory.
Brandon Knight scored 26 points with seven assists for the NBA-worst Bucks, who have dropped eight in a row.
Jones received a standing ovation when he grabbed a rebound off a missed 3-pointer by O.J. Mayo and dribbled by him with a slick spin move before driving into the lane and finishing with an off-balance layup to push the lead to 112-97 with about 2½ minutes remaining.
“From a physical standpoint he outmuscled us,” Milwaukee coach Larry Drew said of Jones. “We knew we had to slow down Dwight and slow down James Harden and defend those guys at the 3-point line, but you don’t factor in a guy like that having that type of game.”
Howard added 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, Aaron Brooks had 10 points and four assists and Jones also had two blocks, a steal and an assist.
John Henson had 20 points and 15 rebounds for Milwaukee and Luke Ridnour added 14 points.
Houston led by 13 points with about 7 minutes left in the third quarter when Milwaukee went on a 9-2 run thanks to two 3-pointers by Knight and one by Ersan Ilyasova to cut the lead to 75-69.
The Rockets were up by seven soon after that when they scored nine straight points to push the lead to 89-73. Harden got that spurt going with a layup before Howard made two free throws before sinking a rare 3. The 6-foot-11 Howard, who often jokes that he should be allowed to shoot more 3s, smiled broadly and pointed at his teammates as he trotted down the court after hitting the long shot.
It was his second 3 this season and the fourth of his nine-year career.
The Bucks had three turnovers during that Houston run before ending their offensive drought by scoring the next five points. But Brooks swiped the ball from Knight after that, passed it to Harden, who finished with a two-handed slam to leave Houston up 91-78 entering the final period.
The Rockets bounced back from a tough loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday night in which they set an NBA record for the largest scoring differential between two halves by scoring 73 points in the first half and a franchise-low 19 after halftime.
They’d matched the 19 points they scored then with 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter en route to a 62-52 halftime lead.
Jones had five dunks in the first half and scored four points in the last 33 seconds of the half, capped by a nifty put back with 1.3 seconds left. He was particularly good in the second quarter when he was a perfect 7 for 7 from the field and made seven of his eight free throws for 21 points.
“He’s got enough skill that he can put the ball on the floor, he can make shots, he can drive, he can finish, he can pass,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “He’s a very versatile player and tonight he had it going.”
Jones played just 19 games as a rookie last season after being selected out of Kentucky with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He has appeared in 39 games this season with 34 starts. The 22-year-old Jones is the second-youngest Rocket to have a 30-point game behind Hakeem Olajuwon.
NOTES: Milwaukee’s Gary Neal missed the game with a stomach illness. … Ridnour got a technical midway through the second quarter and Larry Sanders got one in the third.
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