SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A few key components were back on the court for the Houston Rockets, and it made all the difference Wednesday night.
Parsons and Harden, the team's two leading scorers, returned to the lineup to help the Rockets win their third straight and eighth in 11 games.
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Parsons, who made 12 of 18 shots, had missed the previous game with food poisoning, while Harden had been nursing a foot injury. Harden also had nine rebounds and seven assists.
"It was great to have James and Chandler back," said Houston center Omer Asik, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds. "We knew we had to come in here and play hard. Sacramento has been playing well and they beat us last time. We had to come out tough right from the start."
Every game is an important one for the Rockets, who are in seventh place in the Western Conference, one game behind sixth-place Golden State, which defeated New Orleans. Both teams have seven games remaining.
Harden said his right foot felt fine, but his energy was a question mark. He showed plenty of energy in the opening quarter, getting off to a fast start with two 3-pointers and nine points to help the Rockets to a 27-26 lead.
"This was a big win for us on the road; we knew that Sacramento has been playing well lately," Harden said. "Golden State is doing a good job of keeping their lead and winning games. We need to do everything we can to keep winning going into the playoffs."
The Rockets received a solid game from point guard Jeremy Lin, who had 15 points and 10 assists. What the Rockets didn't expect was a big contribution from seldom-used rookie Terrence Jones, who had career highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Jones has played just 12 games this season and had 91 total minutes entering the game, including only three where he played more than 12 minutes.
Houston coach Kevin McHale said Jones had a good practice Tuesday, so he decided to reward the athletic forward with playing time, which led to 29 minutes.
"What can you say?" Lin said. "You're a rookie and you go to D-League 10 times. You don't play at all and you come off the bench with a double-double and a huge road win. That has to feel great. I couldn't be happier for stories and people like that because you spend months and months waiting for your turn and he really capitalized tonight."
Tyreke Evans scored 22 points and Marcus Thornton had 21 for the Kings, who have dropped two straight. DeMarcus Cousins had 20 points and fouled out late in the fourth quarter. Jason Thompson added 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Sacramento entered the game with a 6-5 record over the last 11 games, including wins over playoff-bound teams Chicago, the Lakers and Golden State.
"Those three or four days we had off was kind of hard for us to come back and to be in real game rhythm," Kings guard Isaiah Thomas said. "We started off slow and it kind of haunted us all night."
After the Kings cut an 11-point deficit to five, the Rockets responded. With time running out on the shot clock, Lin made a 3-pointer and Asik followed with a three-point play, giving the Rockets at 112-101 lead with 1:42 remaining.
Lin said he passed the ball to Jones in the corner, but by the time he got it back the shot clock was ready to expire.
"I was thinking you better pass that ball back to me rookie," said Lin with a smile. "I got it back and I was going to swing it, but there were only two seconds left. So I decided I better shoot and I let it go."
Ahead by three points in the fourth, the Rockets scored six straight. Jones scored twice from close range and Harden had an emphatic breakaway dunk following a Kings turnover, putting Houston ahead 102-93 with 5:45 left.
"This was a very bad loss for us and our fans," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "We played, but we didn't create the opportunity to win on the floor. They made the plays that won the basketball game and we didn't."
Asik scored the first seven points of the third for Houston. He finished with 11 points in the period to help the Rockets take an 88-82 lead into the fourth. Following a quiet first half, Evans had a huge third quarter with 16 points.
Harden scored 15 and had six assists, while Parsons had 14 points for Houston, which took a 59-55 lead into the break. Cousins had 14 points and six rebounds and Thornton had 13 points for the Kings.
Off the court, the uncertainty remains regarding the future of the Kings. A group from Sacramento and Seattle both made presentations in New York today with NBA commissioner David Stern and 12 owners.
The Seattle group, led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, made a 90-minute pitch accompanied by Seattle's mayor and a county executive.
The Seattle group has a pending agreement with the Maloof family to buy 65 percent of the team and move it back to the city the SuperSonics left in 2008.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a potential ownership group -- Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov, Ron Burkle and Paul Jacobs -- pleaded their case to keep the team in Sacramento.
Stern said both cities made strong presentations. The commissioner indicated that it's possible the league might not be able to decide the issue at their Board of Governors meeting later this month, which was the original target date for a decision.
|The Rockets are glad to have James Harden back. Harden scores 21 points, grabs nine boards and has seven assists. (AP)|
|Houston (42-33) «||27||32||29||24||112|
|HOU:C. Parsons 29 Pts
HOU:T. Jones 12 Reb
HOU:J. Lin 10 Ast
|SAC:T. Evans 22 Pts
SAC:J. Thompson 15 Reb
SAC:J. Salmons 5 Ast
|Players of the Game|
Majestic James Harden Rockets Player T-Shirt - Red Shop Now!
|C. Parsons, SF||40||12-18||2-2||5||4||1||29|
|J. Harden, SG||40||7-19||5-6||7||9||2||21|
|O. Asik, C||36||6-8||7-9||10||1||6||19|
|J. Lin, PG||34||5-13||2-2||1||10||4||15|
|D. Motiejunas, PF||11||3-7||0-0||2||0||2||7|
|T. Jones, PF||29||6-11||2-2||12||1||4||14|
|G. Smith, PF||20||1-2||0-0||5||0||5||2|
|P. Beverley, PG||14||1-5||0-0||2||5||2||2|
|F. Garcia, SG||13||1-3||0-0||2||1||2||3|
|J. Anderson, SG||4||0-0||0-0||1||1||0||0|
|C. Delfino, SG||Did Not Play|
|A. Brooks, PG||Did Not Play|
|T. Robinson, PF||Did Not Play|
|R. White, PF||Did Not Play|
|T. Ohlbrecht, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|J. Salmons, SF||39||0-4||0-0||1||5||2||0|
|I. Thomas, PG||35||3-16||5-5||0||5||1||12|
|J. Thompson, PF||32||6-12||5-6||15||1||4||17|
|T. Evans, PG||29||7-18||6-8||4||0||3||22|
|D. Cousins, C||27||7-13||6-9||6||2||6||20|
|M. Thornton, SG||22||8-13||2-2||1||1||0||21|
|P. Patterson, PF||16||1-4||0-0||3||1||1||2|
|T. Douglas, PG||13||0-3||0-0||2||3||2||0|
|C. Aldrich, C||12||0-1||0-0||6||0||0||0|
|C. Hayes, PF||9||0-0||2-2||1||1||0||2|
|T. Outlaw, SF||6||2-3||2-2||1||0||1||6|
|J. Fredette, PG||Did Not Play|
|J. Johnson, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|