Harrell’s energy fueling Rockets
Houston’s backup center soaring and scoring in Capela’s absence
Ask anyone associated with the Houston Rockets about Montrezl Harrell, and inevitably they’ ll talk about his energy.
Now that Harrell is starting, the Rockets are finding out just how much he can help the team.
James Harden had 32 points and 12 assists in three quarters and Harrell chipped in with 14 points to power Houston to a 131-115 win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.
It was Harrell’s third straight game with doubledigit scoring while filling in at center for Clint Capela, who is out for at least a month with a small fracture on his left fibula.
Nene Hilario started the first game after Capela was injured before coach Mike D’Antoni decided to go with Harrell.
“He’s playing great — just his energy,” D’Antoni said. “His defense is really good, we can switch a lot and we can do different things. He covers up for a lot of people, he takes charge. I think he’s been playing terrific.”
Harrell said his mindset didn’t change when he was moved into the starting lineup.
“Just play the game, that’s all I got to do,” said the sophomore dynamo. “Come in with a lot of energy and try to bring that spark to my team every night. My team feeds off it great and I just try to keep it going. I’m not doing anything special.”
It was Harden’s 12 th 30-point game of the season. He made 12 of 15 free throws, and had at least 30 points and 10 assists for the ninth time this season.
“They are a great all-around offensive team,” Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe said.
“James pretty much controls everything out there. There’s really nothing we can do about it now.”
Houston led by at least 20 points for most of the night and was up by 27 entering the fourth quarter. Harden didn’t play after that, and D’Antoni had the rest of his starters on the bench by the middle of the quarter.
Bledsoe led the Suns with 24 points and Brandon Knight added 21 off the bench.
The Rockets led by 26 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 12-4 spurt to extend their advantage to 81-47. Patrick Beverley got things going with a 3-pointer, and Harden added a 3.
James pretty much controls everything out there. There’s really nothing we can do about it now.” Eric Bledsoe,
Getting a break
Harden hasn’t missed a game since the 2014-15 season when he had to sit one out because of a suspension.
For a player who logs so many minutes, a game like this one where he could take the fourth quarter off was a nice break on the front end of a back-to-back.
“It’s good,” he said. “I’ve had several of those this season and I don’t remember the last time I had so many. It feels good, guys are playing well. We’re confident in each other and another test for us tomorrow.”
Rockets: Houston has won 12 games this month, which is their most ever in December ... The Rockets had 69 points in the first half to give them at least 60 points before halftime for the 17 th time this season ... Rookie center Chinanu Onuaku made his NBA debut in the fourth quarter. He finished with six points and three rebounds ... Trevor Ariza tied a season high with 10 rebounds ... Beverley left the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised left thigh, and D’Antoni said he might have to sit out Tuesday.
Suns: Bledsoe was handed a technical foul in the third quarter ... Devin Booker fouled out with 7.9 seconds left in the same quarter. He finished with 16 points ... Dragan Bender had 11 points.