NBA: Without James Harden, Rockets still get best of Kings

Houston Rockets' John Wall (right) controlling the ball against Sacramento Kings' Buddy Hield during their NBA match on Jan 2, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - John Wall had game highs of 28 points, six assists and three steals as hosts Houston Rockets capped a back-to-back sweep of the Sacramento Kings with a 102-94 victory on Saturday (Jan 2).

Rockets guard James Harden, who poured in 33 points with eight assists in a 122-119 victory over the Kings on New Year's Eve, was a late scratch with a right ankle sprain.

Houston found sufficient scoring elsewhere, with Eric Gordon replacing Harden and recording 21 points.

Christian Wood notched his third double-double for the Rockets with 20 points and 15 rebounds despite dealing with foul trouble in the second half.

Sterling Brown had 11 points off the bench.

Houston led 83-81 entering the fourth quarter and quickly established its first double-digit lead of the contest via back-to-back three-pointers from David Nwaba and Gordon, plus three Gordon free throws that stretched the advantage to 92-81 with 9 minutes and 30 seconds remaining.

Kings centre Richaun Holmes' dunk with 8min 23sec left cut the deficit to 92-83, but Sacramento followed by logging five scoreless minutes, a stretch that included three turnovers and seven consecutive missed shots.

De'Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 points, while Buddy Hield chipped in 17 points and five three-pointers.

All five Kings starters scored in double figures, but after a scorching start, Sacramento finished just 35 of 90 (38.9 per cent) from the floor.

Reminiscent of the Thursday meeting, the Kings and Rockets logged a tightly contested first half that featured 18 lead changes.

Wall and Wood combined for the first 19 points for Houston before P.J. Tucker converted at the 4:34 mark of the first quarter.

But Hield started three of four from behind the arc, and his three-pointer with 3:34 left provided the Kings a 25-23 lead.

Fox and Hield combined for 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first quarter while Sacramento shot 60.9 per cent.

Houston turned a 36-36 tie entering the second quarter into a 48-41 lead but the Kings responded with a 21-9 run featuring seven points from Marvin Bagley III.

Harrison Barnes (19 points) gave the Kings a 62-57 lead with a three but Houston turned two second-chance baskets into a 64-64 tie at the break.

The Rockets missed 10 of 12 from three-point range in the second quarter.

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