SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Guard James Harden and the Houston Rockets roared out of the starting gate Tuesday and never looked back.
Harden scored 22 of his season-high 43 points in the opening quarter, and the Rockets built a 31-point lead in the game's first 14 minutes en route to a 129-103 rout of the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena.
Center Dwight Howard added 20 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes, and Houston (39-18) won for the ninth time in 10 games. Forward Terrence Jones added 11 points and forward Chandler Parsons had 10 points and eight rebounds, as four of the Rockets' five starters scored in double-digits.
But the story was Harden, who canned 9 of his first 12 shots and finished 11-for-20 before sitting out the entire fourth quarter. Harden started the Rockets on their running way, and Houston outscored the Kings 18-2 on the fastbreak in the first quarter. The Rockets powered down five dunks en route to a 50-19 lead by the 9:54 mark of the second quarter, and the Kings were never closer than 18 points the rest of the way.
Forward Rudy Gay scored 25 points to pace the Kings (20-37), who were trying to match a season-high three-game winning streak. Center DeMarcus Cousins finished with 16 points and six rebounds for Sacramento, and guard Isaiah Thomas finished with 12. The three had combined to score 92 points in a Sacramento win at Denver on Sunday.
Cousins was ejected after picking up two technical fouls in the second quarter, the second with 8:21 to go and Sacramento trailing 83-58. Cousins has been issued an NBA-high 15 technical fouls this season, and is one shy of receiving a one-game suspension. He led the NBA last season, too, collecting 17.
Forward Reggie Evans, acquired from the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 19 for guard Marcus Thornton, made his home debut for Sacramento and scored eight points. Rookie guard Ray McCallum played a season-high 24 minutes and matched his career-bests with six points and four rebounds.
Harden was a one-man accelerator from the outset, getting out in the open floor often in the opening period and outscoring the Kings by himself as Houston raced to a 42-17 advantage. Harden also collected four of his eight assists in the opening 12 minutes, as the Rockets produced their highest-scoring quarter of the season.
The Rockets, who rank third in the NBA in scoring at just more than 106 per contest, reached the century mark before the end of the third quarter and won for the 17th straight time when scoring at least 100 points. Houston led 69-51 at halftime, its third-highest scoring first half of the campaign, and improved to 18-3 this season, when it puts up at least 60 in the opening half.
NOTES: Kings G Jimmer Fredette was not in uniform amid multiple reports that the team was close to buying him out of his contract and will waive him by the end of the week. GM Pete D'Alessandro told reporters that Fredette no longer is in the team's plans. Fredette, a fan favorite in Sacramento, is a free agent at the end of the season. He turned 25 on Tuesday. He has shot 49.3 percent from 3-point range this season, the best in the NBA among shooters with at least 70 attempts. ... Rockets C Dwight Howard averaged 22.9 points and 12.8 rebounds in his previous 10 games, shooting 59.7 percent from the field. ... The 92 combined points by C DeMarcus Cousins, F Rudy Gay and G Isaiah Thomas in Sunday's 109-95 win at Denver was the most in a game by any Kings threesome in the 29 seasons the team has been in Sacramento. ... Rockets F James Harden played despite a hyper-extended right elbow.