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Harden helps Rockets beat Nets 117-103

HOUSTON (AP) After rolling through the first quarter and building a sizeable lead over the Brooklyn Nets, James Harden said the Houston Rockets' momentum was interrupted by something they hadn't seen in a long time - a zone defense.

In Houston's 117-103 win over Brooklyn, Harden scored 20 of his 37 points in the first quarter. When he took a break with 1:28 remaining in the first quarter, he was outscoring the Nets 20-17 by himself, not to mention four assists at that point. He was 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first quarter and finished 8-for-13.

But when Brooklyn went to a zone defense for the first time all season, Harden said the Rockets had to make adjustments.

''They went zone, and it kind of threw us for a loop,'' Harden said. ''We weren't making shots. That zone kind of messed us up a little bit.''

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson likened Houston's hot start to a hurricane and said the Rockets hit them with a one-two punch, going up 43-26 after the first.

''When they scored 43, it was like, `We've got to do something different, guys,''' Atkinson said. ''They still scored a lot of points, but it helped slow them down and at least made them pause and made them think a little.''

Harden added 10 rebounds and eight assists to guide the Rockets to their fifth straight win. Despite the string of blowout victories, Harden said it's easy to stay self-critical and focus on improving, while Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said he's staying on top of his team.

''The mentality of, 'I'm going to play well all the time,' that's utopia, that's not possible,'' D'Antoni said. ''So I just cry around and moan around for a while, but I'll be all right. I'll get over it.''

Clint Capela added 20 points for Houston, and Chris Paul had a season-high 14 assists on ''Chris Paul Bobblehead Night'' at the Toyota Center.

''We've got to keep getting better, especially, defensively,'' Paul said. ''We can't just always rely on our offense. But we'll take the wins. Every game is different, but right now, we're just trying to pile up the wins.''

For the Nets, Isaiah Whitehead led scorers with 24 points, matching his career high. The Brooklyn native, who was called up from the G-League on Monday morning, shot 10 of 16 from the field.

''I was just staying ready to take opportunities and doing well with them,'' Whitehead said. ''I'll stay ready throughout the year, and hopefully, I'll get more chances.''

Spencer Dinwiddie had 14 points, Caris LeVert had 13 and Sean Kilpatrick added 12. Coming off of a 98-88 win in Memphis on Sunday night, Brooklyn has lost four of its last five.

Houston led 66-55 at halftime and entered the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead.

TIP-INS

Nets: Forwards DeMarre Carroll (upper respiratory condition) and Allen Crabbe (lower back soreness) were both out. ... Quincy Acy had seven points in 20 minutes after missing the previous two games by coach's decision.

Rockets: Houston was without two of its big men -- veteran center Nene was inactive with a strained right shoulder, while rookie center Zhou Qi had a sore left calf. . The Rockets have won 10 of their last 11 meetings at home against Brooklyn.

STICK TO BASEBALL

Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, who won Game 3 of the 2017 World Series on his way to earning a ring, was the celebrity guest as part of Houston's ''First Shot'' promotion featuring a local celebrity shooting a pregame free throw for a chance to earn a $5,000 donation from the Rockets to charity. Despite strong form, McCullers' shot rattled in and out, still earning a $1,000 donation to charity.

DANGER ZONE

On trying out a zone defense for the first time this season, Atkinson said it was an idea he's mulled before but never followed through. ''I've always thought about it, but I've never had the guts to try it.''

ANOTHER ONE

The Rockets hit 20 3-pointers against Brooklyn, marking their fifth straight game of recording 18 or more 3-pointers made. No other team in NBA history has such a streak that lasted longer than two games. Houston has shot 40 percent from 3-point range in four of its past five games. The Rockets are 26-1 when shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the arc under D'Antoni.

CP3'S CLEAN PLAY

Paul didn't have a turnover, marking the eighth time in his career he has recorded 14 or more assists without a turnover, all coming since the start of the 2008-09 season. No other player has more than five games of doing so.

UP NEXT

Nets: Visit Dallas on Wednesday night.

Rockets: Host Indiana on Wednesday night.

Copyright 2017 by AP. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of AP is strictly prohibited.

Key Players
R. Hollis-Jefferson
24 F
J. Harden
13 G
36.0 Min. Per Game 36.0
31.4 Pts. Per Game 31.4
9.8 Ast. Per Game 9.8
4.8 Reb. Per Game 4.8
49.4 Field Goal % 45.6
49.4 Three Point % 45.2
82.6 Free Throw % 85.9
+ 2 Timofey Mozgov made dunk, assist by Isaiah Whitehead 0:17
  Defensive rebound by Isaiah Whitehead 0:25
  Bobby Brown missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:28
  Defensive rebound by Clint Capela 0:42
  Sean Kilpatrick missed driving layup 0:44
  Defensive rebound by Quincy Acy 0:54
  Tarik Black missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:57
+ 3 Joe Harris made 3-pt. jump shot, assist by Isaiah Whitehead 1:11
  Bad pass turnover on Troy Williams, stolen by Isaiah Whitehead 1:15
+ 1 Isaiah Whitehead made 2nd of 2 free throws 1:28
  Team rebound 1:28
Team Stats
Points 103 117
Field Goals 40-86 (46.5%) 42-86 (48.8%)
3-Pointers 10-39 (25.6%) 20-50 (40.0%)
Free Throws 13-17 (76.5%) 13-20 (65.0%)
Total Rebounds 48 53
Offensive 6 8
Defensive 37 34
Team 5 11
Assists 24 31
Steals 5 8
Blocks 4 4
Turnovers 13 15
Fouls 19 19
Technicals 2 0
14 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST
37 PTS, 10 REB, 8 AST
1234T
away team logo Nets 7-13 26292523103
home team logo Rockets 16-4 43233021117
Team Stats
away team logo Nets 7-13 111.1 PPG 44.9 RPG 23.3 APG
home team logo Rockets 16-4 108.7 PPG 40.8 RPG 21.1 APG
Key Players
I. Whitehead G PPG RPG APG FG%
J. Harden G 31.5 PPG 5.8 RPG 8.2 APG 45.4 FG%
Top Scorers
I. Whitehead G 24 PTS 3 REB 3 AST
J. Harden G 37 PTS 10 REB 8 AST
46.5 FG% 48.8
25.6 3PT FG% 40.0
76.5 FT% 65.0
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
S. Dinwiddie 31 14 4 7 0 0 0 2 6/14 2/8 0/1 0 4 32 -15
C. LeVert 29 13 2 6 2 0 2 3 6/14 0/5 1/2 0 2 27 -1
T. Zeller 16 10 1 3 0 1 0 1 4/6 1/2 1/1 1 0 18 -10
J. Harris 28 10 4 1 0 0 2 1 4/11 2/6 0/0 0 4 14 -8
T. Booker 20 6 3 2 2 1 1 1 2/4 2/2 0/0 0 3 15 -8
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
S. Dinwiddie 31 14 4 7 0 0 0 2 6/14 2/8 0/1 0 4 32 -15
C. LeVert 29 13 2 6 2 0 2 3 6/14 0/5 1/2 0 2 27 -1
T. Zeller 16 10 1 3 0 1 0 1 4/6 1/2 1/1 1 0 18 -10
J. Harris 28 10 4 1 0 0 2 1 4/11 2/6 0/0 0 4 14 -8
T. Booker 20 6 3 2 2 1 1 1 2/4 2/2 0/0 0 3 15 -8
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
I. Whitehead 27 24 3 3 1 0 5 5 10/16 1/5 3/4 0 3 29 -9
S. Kilpatrick 28 12 6 2 0 0 1 2 3/12 2/8 4/4 0 6 21 -9
T. Mozgov 19 7 6 0 0 2 1 1 3/3 0/0 1/2 2 4 14 +7
Q. Acy 20 7 6 0 0 0 0 1 2/6 0/3 3/3 1 5 13 -4
J. Allen 18 0 8 0 0 0 1 2 0/0 0/0 0/0 2 6 7 -13
D. Carroll - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Lin - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Crabbe - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
R. Hollis-Jefferson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Russell - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Wiley - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Y. Ouattara - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 236 103 43 24 5 4 13 19 40/86 10/39 13/17 6 37 190 -70
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Harden 35 37 10 8 2 2 4 2 13/20 8/13 3/4 0 10 63 +22
C. Capela 27 20 6 3 0 2 2 4 8/12 0/0 4/5 2 4 32 -2
R. Anderson 26 13 2 1 0 0 1 1 5/9 3/7 0/1 0 2 16 +8
T. Ariza 28 11 6 0 0 0 1 2 4/9 3/7 0/0 0 6 16 +4
C. Paul 30 4 6 14 2 0 0 1 1/7 1/4 1/1 3 3 40 +12
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Harden 35 37 10 8 2 2 4 2 13/20 8/13 3/4 0 10 63 +22
C. Capela 27 20 6 3 0 2 2 4 8/12 0/0 4/5 2 4 32 -2
R. Anderson 26 13 2 1 0 0 1 1 5/9 3/7 0/1 0 2 16 +8
T. Ariza 28 11 6 0 0 0 1 2 4/9 3/7 0/0 0 6 16 +4
C. Paul 30 4 6 14 2 0 0 1 1/7 1/4 1/1 3 3 40 +12
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
E. Gordon 28 12 4 1 0 0 1 2 5/15 1/10 1/1 0 4 17 +5
P. Tucker 20 9 2 1 2 0 2 4 3/5 3/4 0/0 0 2 13 +18
L. Mbah a Moute 20 6 1 2 2 0 1 1 1/4 1/3 3/4 0 1 12 +11
T. Black 15 5 5 1 0 0 2 2 2/4 0/1 1/4 3 2 10 +7
B. Brown 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/1 0/1 0/0 0 0 0 -5
B. Weber 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0 0 -5
T. Williams 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0 -1 -5
D. Jackson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
C. Onuaku - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Z. Qi - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Nene - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 232 117 42 31 8 4 15 19 42/86 20/50 13/20 8 34 218 +70