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Harden leads Rockets over Grizzlies 121-96

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm •  Published: December 22, 2012

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston coach Kevin McHale figured the best way to beat the Memphis Grizzlies was to get down the court before they could get their dominant defense set.

His plan worked perfectly.

James Harden scored 31 points with eight assists, and the Rockets earned their third straight win, 121-96 over the Grizzlies on Saturday night.

Memphis entered the game allowing an NBA-low 89.2 points a game. But the Grizzlies had no answer for Harden. He did all his scoring in the first three quarters and reached at least 20 points for an eighth straight game.

"It's easier getting them early than it is going against the defense and trying to get something in the last five seconds of the shot clock," McHale said. "That's where they really get into you."

Houston used a big run midway through the second quarter to take the lead, and didn't trail after that to break a four-game winning streak by the Grizzlies.

"We know how physical they are," Harden said. "They like to pound the ball in the paint and get easy layups. It was our job to push the tempo, get stops, and get in transition."

Mike Conley had 16 points for the Grizzlies on a night when leading scorer Rudy Gay finished with a season-low six points.

"We tried to play their game, and they are obviously better at it than us playing at that pace," Memphis center Marc Gasol said. "They beat us in every aspect of the game."

Memphis hadn't allowed 100 points since the Clippers scored 101 in the season-opener — an NBA-best streak of 23 games.

The Rockets needed just over three quarters to reach the mark, hitting it with a free throw by Jeremy Lin with 9½ minutes left that made it 100-80.

"I think tonight we showed how explosive we can be offensively because we put 120 points on a team that hasn't allowed over 100 since the first game of the season," Lin said. "This is just a testament to people moving and passing the ball."

It was the Rockets' 13th straight home victory over the Grizzlies. Memphis hasn't won in Houston since April 2006.

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