Harden scores 40 points to lead Rockets over Hornets 125-110

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden has regained his shooting touch and that’s helped the Houston Rockets go on a winning streak despite injuries to other starters.

Harden had 40 points and 11 assists, and the short-handed Rockets overcame an early deficit to beat the Charlotte Hornets 125-110 yesterday.

Houston won its third straight, handing Charlotte its fourth consecutive loss and 12th in 13 games.

Harden finished a rebound shy of a triple-double after also scoring 40 points but falling one assist short of a triple-double in Houston’s last game. He’s scored at least 35 points in each of his past three games after struggling through a shooting slump over the previous four.

The Rockets got off to a slow start and trailed throughout most of the first half on a night when they played without starters Clint Capela and Russell Westbrook, who sat out with injuries.

Harden has carried a huge load for Houston during the winning streak, with Capela sidelined for all three games and Westbrook joining him on the bench yesterday.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden shoots as Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges defends. PHOTO: AP

But Harden was quick to point out that he’s had some help.

“Guys are out with injuries, next guy has the opportunity to step up and play well,” he said. “And obviously I think everyone played well tonight, not just offensively but defensively, being in the right spots.”

The Hornets led early in the fourth before the Rockets used a 15-2 run to take control midway through the quarter and cruise the rest of the way.

Coach Mike D’Antoni was impressed that the Rockets picked it up in the second half to avoid heading to play the Lakers with a loss.

“They picked up their energy,” he said. “It was a tough game, one of those where after a couple of emotional games we get one without Russell and have to head to Los Angeles for the next game, (so) this was kind of a trap game where they could get you. But they understood what they were risking and came out after halftime and did the job.”

Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier had 20 points each for the Hornets, and Malik Monk added 19 off the bench.

Charlotte coach James Borrego was happy to see his young team stay with the Rockets for much of the game.

“We competed from the start and came out with a great mindset … we battled tonight,” he said. “We got off to a great start, we competed for 48 minutes and I’m proud of the group — great effort.”