Harden, Capela lead Rockets to easy win over Hawks

ATLANTA (AP) — Chris Paul wasn’t concerned that Houston would keep struggling to hit shots.

“In the first half we weren’t making anything,” he said.

“We looked, and it was tied up and we were down two at some point. Once we started making stops, we can blow this game open, man. That’s what I always say. ‘If we’re not making shots, you better go on a run on us.’”

James Harden had 31 points and 10 assists, Clint Capela added 26 points and 11 rebounds and the Rockets won their third straight game with a 121-105 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.

The Rockets have won 12 of 13 and have 10 wins in their last 13 road games.

It was a lopsided matchup. The Hawks, led by Trae Young’s 21 points and 12 assists and John Collins’ 20 points 10 rebounds, are rebuilding and likely headed for the NBA draft lottery. Houston is third in the Western Conference and has plenty of star power.

Harden, the league’s scoring leader, is trying to become the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988-89 to average at least 30 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (L) shoots as Atlanta Hawks forward DeAndre’ Bembry defends. – AP

Atlanta had no player able to defend him for long as he finished eight for 18 from the field and 11 of 12 from the foul line. Harden set a new NBA single-season high of 890 attempts beyond the arc, four more than Stephen Curry took in 2015-16.

Paul, who last month joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Jason Kidd as the only players with at least 17,000 career points, 9,000 assists and 4,000 rebounds, had 13 points, 11 assists, three steals and just one turnover.

“We get most of the shots that we want every night,” Paul said. “It’s just a matter of whether or not they go in. We just keep trying to turn the defence and push the tempo and we feel like we can make shots.”

Capela got his sixth straight double-double and 37th overall.

“Their second-half execution was tough,” Collins said. “I think they turned it up a little bit, hit a lot of tough shots and that pushed the lead out. With a team like that, if they get a lead, they know how to keep it.”

Houston struggled beyond the arc in the first half, missing 13 of its first 15 attempts, and entering the third was just four for 21.

But just as they did last Sunday with 21 3s in a win over Minnesota, the Rockets came out of the break quickly, finishing the period with eight 3s to take charge of the game.

The Hawks never had a chance the rest of the way, letting Houston push the lead to 93-78 early in the fourth when Paul fed Kenneth Faried for a layup.