HOUSTON - James Harden scored 16 of his 28 points in the third quarter to allow the Houston Rockets to build a huge lead and sail to an easy 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
The NBA's leading scorer took a little while to get going a night after sitting out against Dallas with a sore left knee and had just 12 points at halftime.
Despite his slow start, the Rockets had a comfortable lead in the third and were still up by 13 after a basket by San Antonio's Dejounte Murray with about eight minutes left in the quarter. It was then that Harden took over, scoring the next eight points to start a 16-4 run that extended the lead to 82-57 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third and had coach Gregg Popovich calling for a timeout.
Harden had a 3-pointer and made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt to propel that spurt. He didn't return in the fourth quarter with the game in hand.
The Spurs, who were without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge, got 14 points each from Forbes and Derrick White. They lost for the fifth time in six games as they fight for a playoff spot.
San Antonio scored four quick points in the fourth quarter to get within 15. But Houston scored the next eight points, with the last five from Chris Paul, to make it 99-76 and end Paul's night with about 8 minutes remaining.
Paul, who finished with 18 points and nine assists, wowed the crowd in that stretch, crossing over Bryn Forbes before sinking a basket and then knocking down a 3-pointer on Houston's next trip down the court.
The Rockets were up by 10 early in the third quarter before using a 7-3 run, capped by a 3 from Trevor Ariza, to make it 61-47 with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the quarter before the big Harden-fueled run put the game out of reach.
Spurs: Popovich said before the game that he didn't have any update on when Kawhi Leonard could return amid recent reports that he could return later this week. Leonard has played just nine games this season because of a quadriceps injury. ... Aldridge missed the game because of a sore right knee. ... Manu Ginobili got a day off to rest. ... Rudy Gay added 13 points. ... Tony Parker had 12.
Rockets: Ryan Anderson missed his eighth straight game with a sore left hip. Coach Mike D'Antoni said he is doing better but he doesn't know when he'll return. ... Clint Capela had 13 points and nine rebounds.
Spurs: Host Orlando on Tuesday night.
Rockets: Host Clippers on Thursday night.
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