NBA: James Harden piles up 44 points as Houston Rockets rock Memphis Grizzlies

Houston Rockets guard James Harden reacts during the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov 4, 2019.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden reacts during the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov 4, 2019.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - James Harden scored 44 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and led the Houston Rockets to a 107-100 victory over the host Memphis Grizzlies on Monday (Nov 4).

Harden was the foundation of a bounce-back effort for the Rockets, whose defence was torched for an average of 126 points in back-to-back losses at Brooklyn and Miami over the weekend.

Houston, playing without Russell Westbrook (rest) for the first time this season, leaned heavily on Harden, who added six assists.

Memphis hung tough without second-year forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (right knee), as the Rockets and Grizzlies alternated the lead seven times with 15 ties. But Memphis blew a golden opportunity early in the third quarter.

The Grizzlies held the Rockets to just one field goal over the opening four-plus minutes, but they led by only four points, 68-64, and then Houston's Eric Gordon sank a three-pointer at the 7:19 mark to cut the deficit to one point.

Harden and Ben McLemore later combined for all of the points in an 11-0 run that carried Houston to its first double-digit lead at 81-70.

Gordon finished with 16 points, while Danuel House Jr. added 15 for Houston.

Rookie guard Ja Morant paced the Grizzlies with 23 points. Dillon Brooks chipped in 17 points and nine boards.

The first half featured spurts by each team that kept either one from wrangling control.

Houston turned an extended 20-9 push into a 31-23 lead on Austin Rivers' three-pointer with 1:11 remaining in the first quarter, one of six treys for the Rockets in the opening period.

Harden's fingerprints were over the frame, posting 12 points, six rebounds and three assists to offset a hot start by Morant, who paced Memphis with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first quarter.

Memphis responded with a 10-2 run in the second, with Tyus Jones scoring six points, including the basket that extended the Grizzlies' lead to 50-44 and prompted a Houston timeout with 4:38 left in the first half.

Harden fashioned a reply, scoring nine of the Rockets' 18 points down the stretch of the second quarter while also adding an assist. Harden had 25 points at the break, matching the Grizzlies' total from their bench, as the Rockets led 62-60 at the half.