Showdown in Houston when Kings battle Rockets

(SportsNetwork.com) - Two Western powers collide Wednesday as the Houston Rockets welcome the Sacramento Kings to the Toyota Center.

The Rockets hope to get center Dwight Howard back to combat Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins. Howard has missed three straight games with a strained knee and leads the Rockets in rebounds with 11.3 and is second in scoring with 18.8 ppg. Howard hasn't played since Nov. 17 versus Memphis.

Houston is second in opponents' scoring at 91.7 ppg and posted a second straight win with Monday's 91-86 triumph versus New York. James Harden scored 36 points on 11-of-22 shooting and made 7-of-12 3-pointers, while Donatas Motiejunas ended with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Harden is third in scoring with 25.2 ppg and has five games with at least 30 points this season.

"I just know I had to be aggressive," Harden said of his performance against the Knicks. "I knocked down shots and tried to make plays."

Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (hamstring) did not play and is questionable Wednesday. Beverley is posting an average of 12.6 ppg for the Rockets, winners in five of the last games.

The Rockets are a game behind Memphis (12-2) in the Southwest Division with an 11-3 mark and have a 5-2 record at home. Houston is 2-1 on a five-game homestand and will close it out Friday versus the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sacramento has won three in a row and four of its last five games, and improved to 2-0 on a four-game road trip with Tuesday's 99-89 victory over Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Cousins muscled his way to 22 points and 12 rebounds, Omri Casspi scored 22 points and Ramon Sessions added 15 for the Kings.

"We had a little adversity at halftime with the whole coach situation," Cousins said. "So I just tried to come out and be aggressive, hit them in the mouth early and get our team rolling."

Head coach Mike Malone was ejected in the second quarter.

Cousins has recorded double-doubles in each of the last seven games and leads the NBA in rebounding (12.3 rpg).

The Kings, who opened the game on a 19-4 run, played without Rudy Gay (21.1 ppg) and Darren Collison (15.9 ppg). Gay is bothered by right Achilles tendinitis and Collison is nursing a bruised left quadriceps.

Sacramento is trying to reach the 10-win mark Wednesday and will visit San Antonio on Friday. The Kings last started 10-5 in 2004-05, when they began the season with wins in 13 of the first 18 games.

The Kings and Rockets split four meetings last season, and Houston has dominated the series in recent years with an 11-4 mark over the previous 15 encounters. Sacramento has lost 11 of the last 14 trips to Space City.