The Sacramento Kings are finding the road to be an unfriendly place. After dropping a stinker to the Celtics on Thursday in Mexico City, they couldn’t get over the hump Saturday night in Houston, falling to the Rockets by a final of 120-113.
James Harden led the Rockets attack with 31 points on 5-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. The NBA’s second leading scorer added nine assists, but turned the ball over five times.
After sitting out Friday night’s game to rest, Dwight Howard pinned 22 points and 18 rebounds on Cousins and the Kings.
Trevor Ariza waited until late to show up, but his perimeter shooting down the stretch burned Sacramento. The veteran forward scored 12 points in total, going 3-of-8 from downtown. Terrence Jones added 16 off Houston’s bench and Patrick Beverley finished with 14.
Ben McLemore showed up in a big way for Sacramento, falling one rebound shy of his first double-double of the season. The third-year pro attacked Harden from the opening tip, finishing with 19 points and nine boards in 42 minutes of action.
Rajon Rondo continues to play maestro for the Kings. The four-time All-Star carved up the Rockets defense, scoring 13 points and handing out 19 assists on the night. This was the ninth double-double of the season for the Kings starting point guard and the 11th time he’s finished with 10 or more assists in a game.
Both Gay and DeMarcus Cousins struggled with foul trouble all night long. Gay rebounded late to drop in 15 points and grabbed six rebounds. Cousins couldn’t find a rhythm, scoring just 14 points on 4-for-16 shooting. He added nine rebounds and three assists, but fouled out with 2:14 remaining in the fourth.
With their leading scorers struggling, Darren Collison and Kosta Koufos picked up the slack. Collison scored 18 points and handed out six assists in just 22 minutes, while Koufos chipped in 11 points and 12 rebounds.
For the 12th time this season, George Karl turned to a new starting lineup. Omri Casspi got the call at the small forward position, pushing Rudy Gay to the power spot. Casspi responded with 15 points in 33 minutes.
Harden was just too much to handle. Sacramento tried to stay in front of him, but 2015's NBA MVP runner-up killed them from the line, hitting 14-of-16 free throw attempts on his way to 31 points.
A Koufos lay-in cut the Rockets lead to three with just under two minutes remaining. The Kings were outscored 8-4 the rest of the way out.
Willie Cauley-Stein missed his first game of the season after injuring his right index finger Thursday in Mexico City. He will miss the next 4-6 weeks.
The Kings return to the court on Sunday when they take on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.