Rockets try to ring in new year with win over Hornets

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The Houston Rockets rang in 2012 with a win and hope to start 2013 the same way when they host the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night at Toyota Center.

The Rockets trounced the Atlanta Hawks, 124-103, on Monday night to run their record to 12-2 against the Eastern Conference. Six Houston players scored in double-figures, led by James Harden and his 28 points.

Omer Asik scored 11 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, all on the defensive side. Carlos Delfino returned from a two-game absence with a season-high 22 points and a career-high matching eight assists.

One could make the argument that as Delfino goes, so too, go the Rockets. They are 14-8 when he's in the lineup and 3-6 when he's on the sideline.

"He played really well for us and we needed it, too," head coach Kevin McHale said of his versatile forward. "Carlos just came in and moved the ball, made shots, had eight assists, he really played well. He just played simple basketball and made simple plays. That's kind of how he plays. He just lets the game come to him and makes the right play, the easy play. The ball hits his hands and he moves it to the next guy. He just plays real solid and is a very good basketball player. I've always liked him."

The Hornets were not able to capitalize on their winning ways from Saturday night when they knocked off the Charlotte Bobcats on the road. On New Year's Day, the Hornets fell at home to the Atlanta Hawks, 95-86.

The Hornets took a six-point lead into the locker room at halftime, but got their doors blown off in the third quarter. The Hawks took that period, 28-14, and New Orleans never recovered.

"I don't think it was a tale of two different halves, but the third quarter was below average for us," admitted head coach Monty Williams. "We gave up 28 points and we scored 14 points. We just didn't have execution and didn't play with a lot of force tonight."

Ryan Anderson led the way with 23 points off the bench on 5-for-10 3-point shooting. Eric Gordon, in only his second game back from a knee injury, played almost 24 minutes, but managed just 11 points on a 5-for-17 performance from the field.

"I felt like I missed some shots that I should have made," acknowledged Gordon. "In the second half they did a good job keeping me from getting to the goal. It was a very physical game tonight. We were in the game most of the night we just didn't hit some shots when we needed them."

The Rockets won this season's only matchup with New Orleans, a 100-96 decision in Houston on Nov. 14. Prior to this season's loss, the Hornets won seven of their last 11 against the Rockets.