James Harden and the Houston Rockets got a lift from two unlikely sources on Wednesday night.
Harden scored 26 points on 10-for-31 shooting in Houston's 102-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings, and Donatas Motiejunas and Isaiah Canaan each stepped up for the Rockets.
"We kept breathing, our defense just kept grinding away and grinded out some stops," Houston coach Kevin McHale said.
Harden also had eight assists and seven rebounds in Houston's third straight win, and Motiejunas and Canaan each set a career high for points.
Canaan made six 3-pointers and scored 24 points, and Motiejunas had 21 points. Canaan was averaging 8.1 points coming into the night, and Motiejunas was averaging 6.6 points.
The Rockets, who committed just four turnovers, scored 32 points off of Sacramento's 21 turnovers.
"You can't beat good teams and yourself in the same game, and we did that tonight, which is too bad," Kings coach Michael Malone said.
DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points and 17 rebounds for the Kings (9-6), and Ben McLemore and Omri Casspi each scored 14.
Houston played without center Dwight Howard (knee) and point guard Patrick Beverley (hamstring), while Sacramento was without Rudy Gay (right Achilles injury) and Darren Collison (quad contusion).
Sacramento had a scary moment late in the third quarter when Cousins went down, grabbing at a knee in apparent pain. The entire Kings bench, staff and players, walked onto the court toward the far corner where Cousins was located, but he slowly got up with a slight limp and remained in the game.
"To see him go down and grab his knee was very disconcerting," Malone said. "He's a load and we can't afford to lose him."
The Rockets held Sacramento to just 39 points in the second half.
"That's hard to do because Cousins is a handful," McHale said.
Lacking its main inside presence in Howard, Houston went 12 for 35 from 3-point range. The Rockets reached double-digits in made 3-pointers in all but three of their games this season, including four straight.
The Rockets out together a strong start, leading 37-19 at the end of the first quarter. Harden had 12 points and five assists in the opening period.
The Kings stepped up their defense in the second, allowing just 20 points and closing to 57-50 at the break.
Sacramento went 22 for 28 at the free-throw line, while Houston was just 6 for 15. The Kings and Rockets began the night ranked first and fourth in free-throw attempts per game, respectively.
The Rockets have won six of eight since a loss to Golden State ended a 6-0 run to open the season.
Kings: Jason Thompson had 11 boards, and Sacramento outrebounded the undersized Rockets 48-41. The Kings entered the game ranked third in the league in rebounds per game.
Rockets: Howard missed his fourth straight game with a sprained knee. Beverley has missed four games with the lingering hamstring injury. ... F Terrence Jones missed his 11th straight game with nerve damage in his left leg. McHale hinted before the game that all three starters would remain sidelined Friday.
Kings: Visit San Antonio on Friday.
Rockets: Host the Clippers on Friday for the finale of a five-game homestand.
CANAAN FROM 3
Canaan went 6 for 10 from 3-point range and is 25 for 59 from long range on the season.
"Once you see a couple go down, you believe the next one is going to fall and if it does, the next one, you got to take that one, too," Canaan said.
Casspi returned to Houston, where he played last season before being traded in July. Before the game, McHale spoke glowingly of Casspi's brief tenure in Houston, and Casspi's admiration was mutual.
"It was a life-changing experience from a basketball perspective to play for coach McHale," Casspi said. "He taught me how to play the game the right way. I learned a lot."