Houston hopes Harden returns against Kings

The Houston Rockets hope to have All-Star James Harden back on the floor when they begin a three-game western road trip Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings.

Out the past two games because of a sore right foot, Harden hopes to be ready by shootaround and said the foot "feels good" after Tuesday's practice. Harden, who is fifth in the NBA with 26.0 ppg, wants to bring even more energy and defense back to the Rockets and doesn't want to rush things just yet.

"If I'm lingering and not playing to the best of my ability I'm effecting my team," Harden said. "We'll see how tomorrow goes but these guys have been playing pretty well."

In fact, the Rockets have won the last two games without Harden, posting a 98-81 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, followed by a 111-103 triumph versus the Orlando Magic Monday night. Houston scored 65 points in the first half and was led by Omer Asik's 22 points and 18 rebounds.

Jeremy Lin added 19 points and 11 assists for the Rockets, winners in seven of their last 10 games. Houston's back-to-back wins comes on the heels of two straight losses to Indiana and Memphis -- both playoff-bound teams.

"We've all got to play with pace and movement all the time as a team. I thought that the two games where we really struggled against Indiana and Memphis we were slowed down, we had no pace, no space and no thrust," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We just didn't play our style but we've done that periodically throughout the year. It's not like a revelation for anybody that's watching us."

McHale's squad is seventh in the Western Conference -- one game behind Golden State and 2 1/2 games clear of both Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets are second in the NBA with 105.9 ppg this season and will also visit Portland and Denver on the road trip. They are 14-22 as the guest.

Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (illness) is probable Wednesday and did not play against the Magic. He is second on the team with 15.1 ppg.

Sacramento will continue the final homestand of the season versus Houston and dropped a 103-98 decision to the Lakers on Saturday in the opener of a five- game residency.

Tyreke Evans finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 11 boards for the Kings, who had won two straight and four of six games. The Lakers used a 17-3 run late in the game to erase a 72-65 lead and take an 82-75 edge.

"I guess you can't really talk bad about the way these guys competed tonight," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "I thought that our guys did everything they could from a statistical standpoint, outside of winning the basketball game."

Marcus Thornton scored 18 points off the bench in defeat. Cousins has scored in double-figures in eight of the last nine games he has played in and has recorded double-doubles seven times in the stretch.

The Kings have turned up the scoring since the All-Star break and are first in scoring over that span with 108.4 ppg. They have scored 100-plus points in 20 of the previous 24 games and will face a Rockets defense that is allowing 102.3 ppg this season (28th).

Sacramento is scheduled to entertain Dallas, Memphis and New Orleans as well on this homestand and is 19-17 in California's capital. The Kings defeated Houston, 117-111, in the first meeting on Feb. 10 at home and will visit the Rockets on April 14.

Houston has won 11 of the past 15 games in this series.