HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden is certain the Houston Rockets won’t let up in their last nine regular-season games despite holding a 4 1/2 game lead over Golden State for the top seed in the Western Conference.
“The edge is going to be there no matter what,” he said. “We haven’t done anything. We don’t have time to relax.”
Harden scored 27 points in three quarters and the Rockets routed the New Orleans Pelicans 114-91 on Saturday night for their eighth straight victory.
The NBA-leading Rockets improved to 59-14 to overtake the 1993-94 championship team for the most wins in franchise history.
“It was just another win,” Eric Gordon said. “We have high expectations for one another.”
Houston never trailed and already had a huge lead to start the fourth before scoring seven straight points early in the period to make it 92-63 with 10 minutes remaining. Clint Capela had four points and a steal to lead Houston in that stretch. Capela finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and tied a career high with six blocks.
The Pelicans, who were playing their fifth game in seven days, finally ran out of gas, and looked worn out from the start. Entering Saturday’s game they had played on three consecutive nights from Tuesday-Thursday because of a rescheduled game and won all of them to extend their winning streak to four in a row.
“I don’t want to use that as an excuse,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “I do think we were a little tired and we got off to a rough start and this is not a team you want to get off to a rough start with.”
Anthony Davis, who also sat out the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, led New Orleans with 25 points and had eight rebounds and four blocks.
Eric Gordon added 19 points for the Rockets on a night Chris Paul missed his second straight game because of a sore left hamstring.
Houston led by 27 entering the third quarter after a first half where Harden scored 18. The Pelicans opened the second half with an 11-2 run, with six points from Davis, to get within 66-48 with about eight minutes left.
There was a scuffle soon after that when Gordon and E’Twaun Moore got tangled up and Moore gave Gordon a two-handed shove in the back. The two players lunged at each other and had to be separated, but order was quickly restored and Moore was given a personal foul and a technical foul.
Gordon made the free throw on the technical and Harden added a basket soon after that, but it didn’t end Houston’s struggles in the quarter.