By KRISTIE RIEKEN/AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) – James Harden scored 20 points, Omer Asik had 14 and the Houston Rockets beat the winless Detroit Pistons 96-82 on Saturday night in their first game without coach Kevin McHale.
The team announced earlier Saturday that McHale was taking an immediate leave of absence to deal with a family matter.
Assistant coach Kelvin Sampson took over for McHale, and said before the game that he hoped the team would come together to win for McHale.
The Rockets did just that, using a third-quarter run to build a big lead and break a three-game losing streak with their first victory at home. The Pistons fell to 0-7.
Brandon Knight scored 16 points for Detroit and Greg Monroe added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Detroit scored five quick points to get within four midway through the third quarter. The Rockets responded with an 11-2 spurt highlighted by six points from Harden to make it 69-56 with less than four minutes left in the period.
Harden was fouled on a layup he made after a nifty assist from Jeremy Lin during that run. Harden slapped the padded part of the goal after the shot, and promptly knocked down the free throw for the three-point play.
Houston padded its lead by scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter. Detroit couldn’t do anything offensively in the fourth quarter and missed its first 10 shots.
The Pistons didn’t score in the quarter until Knight’s jump shot with six minutes remaining made it 80-59.
Houston came in averaging almost 20 turnovers a game but had a season-low 14 against Detroit.
This was the second meeting between these teams this season. Harden scored 37 points and had 12 assists in a 105-96 victory in his debut with the Rockets on Oct. 31 after a trade from Oklahoma City days earlier.
Marcus Morris added 12 points for Houston and Toney Douglas had 11. Lin helped out with seven points, eight assists and four rebounds.
Houston was up 72-57 entering the fourth quarter.
The Rockets were up by five at the end of the first quarter, and used a 14-7 run capped by a 3-pointer from Douglas to open the second quarter and extend the lead to 34-22.
Houston’s lead was 15 points late in the second quarter before Detroit scored nine straight points to end the period and cut the Rockets’ lead to 47-41 at halftime.
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