NBA Basketball

Rejuvenated Rockets look for third straight at Hornets

James Harden's streak of games with at least 30 points is at zero.

Perhaps he will start another run Wednesday night when his Houston Rockets play at the Charlotte Hornets.

Not that he seems to care much.

Harden, after sitting one game because of a neck strain, finished with 28 points in Houston's 119-111 home victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, ending his streak of 32 consecutive games with 30 points.

He had the ball as the clock was winding down but didn't attempt a shot just for the sake of trying to extend the streak.

"Nah. For what?" he said at his locker after the game. "That streak was great, but I was just doing it because that's what we had to do to keep our heads above water. Now we got our full roster back.

"You look at the roster. The stat line, we had multiple guys in double figures, which is great to see. So hopefully, we can keep that up and catch a rhythm."

Guard Chris Paul and center Clint Capela each missed extended time during Harden's 30-point streak -- the second-longest in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain's 65-game streak in 1961-61 -- and the Rockets (35-25) are hoping a balanced, full roster will propel them higher than their current fifth-place position in the Western Conference standings.

Houston did beat the Golden State Warriors on Saturday without Harden.

Now, the Rockets will take on a Hornets team that is fighting for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte (28-32) will be wrapping up a four-game homestand in which it is 1-2, including Monday's 121-110 loss to Golden State.

Center Cody Zeller had his best game since returning Feb. 5 from a 16-game absence because of a fractured hand. The sixth-year veteran scored a career-high 28 points, making 13 of 14 shots from the field, and added nine rebounds, three blocks, three steals and two assists.

He is averaging 13.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in his past eight games, an emerging option for when opponents are extra dedicated to stopping All-Star guard Kemba Walker (25.1 points per game).

"He's just battling, playing so hard," Charlotte coach James Borrego said after Monday night's game. "Creating offense, battling defensively ... Warrior."

Zeller also said a lineup change three games ago -- with starting forward Nic Batum moving to shooting guard -- has freed him up more on the inside.

"We didn't know it would have that effect," Borrego said after Tuesday's practice. "But I think Nic has been more aggressive, opening up spacing, another playmaker, the ball is in his hands a little bit more."

Rookie Miles Bridges has started the past three games at small forward -- also seeing time at power forward -- with Borrego looking to add more defense to his lineup.

"He's giving us some presence out there. He's running the floor," Borrego said. "He's giving us physicality down there. ... The next step for him is when he puts the ball on the floor, hitting that open man."

Houston, too, has a surprising post player on a hot streak. Kenneth Faried, signed last month after being waived by Brooklyn, is averaging 15.8 points in 15 games with the Rockets, which exceeds his scoring average in any of his previous eight NBA seasons.

The Rockets and Hornets will wrap up their two-game season series in Houston on March 11.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 26, 2019

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