Rockets, Bobcats tangle in Charlotte

( - The Houston Rockets haven't missed a beat with Dwight Howard's recent absence and will try for a fourth straight win without the All-Star center Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Howard has missed Houston's last three games -- all wins -- with a balky knee and had fluid drained from it last week. MRI results revealed a cyst in the left ankle and Howard is doubtful for Monday's game. Howard is averaging 18.6 points and 12.4 rebounds.

The Rockets improved to 8-3 in their last 11 games with Saturday's 118-111 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, as James Harden pumped in 37 points and handed out 11 assists.

"I let the game come to me. If the shot is there for me, I take it. If the pass is there, I make sure I make the right pass every time. If the drive is there, I take the drive," said Harden, who is fifth in the NBA with 24.8 ppg. "It's just a matter of me using my basketball instincts and going out there and just playing."

Houston is 12-5 in games Harden scores 30-plus points. Harden is averaging 26.7 points in his last seven games for the Rockets, who fended off a fourth- quarter rally by the Cavs to push their road record to 19-15. The Rockets also stopped a three-game road slide.

The Rockets went 30-for-34 from the free throw line and received 16 points from Chandler Parsons and 15 out of Patrick Beverly. Terence Jones and Jeremy Lin scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Houston, which has a 21-5 record against teams from the East and a 26-9 mark overall since Jan. 1, is third in the NBA with 106.9 ppg and is averaging 124.0 ppg during the three-game winning streak. The team is fourth in the Western Conference -- just 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Rockets will host the Philadelphia 76ers and Clippers on an upcoming homestand.

Charlotte enters Monday's matchup with the Rockets on a high note and dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers 124-94 on Saturday. The Bobcats opened a three-game homestand and scored a season high in points. They are 21-4 this season when they score 100-plus points, including 12-1 at home.

Al Jefferson (28), Kemba Walker (26) and Gerald Henderson (23) reached the 20- point mark and Chris Douglas-Roberts added 11 for Charlotte, which opened the game on a 17-4 run, shot 52 percent from the field and committed just five turnovers. The win lifted Charlotte to a 7-3 mark in the last 10 games.

"We came out with a big win against a good team tonight," Walker said. "We just went hard as possible out there and see what happens."

The Bobcats have won nine of their last 10 home games, averaging 103.9 ppg in that period, and own a 20-15 record at Time Warner Cable Arena. They are 9-5 as the host versus the West and sit seventh in the Eastern Conference standings -- two games behind Washington and two ahead of Atlanta.

Charlotte will also welcome the Brooklyn Nets to town on the stay.

Meanwhile, Jefferson will try to take advantage of Houston inside and has scored 20 or more points in 27 of his last 33 games, posting and average of 25.4 points and 10.7 rebounds in that span.

Jefferson is averaging 25.2 points in the team's wins this season and will most likely battle Rockets big man Omer Asik, who has started the last three games and is averaging 11.0 points and 8.3 rebounds over that stretch.

Houston defeated Charlotte, 96-83, back on Oct. 30 in Space City, as Harden led the way with 21 points and Howard followed with 17 points and 26 rebounds. The Rockets have won six straight and 14 of the 19 matchups with the Bobcats, and are 5-4 lifetime in Charlotte.