clear
Wednesday July 29th, 2015 7:30AM

Harden has 45, Rockets beat Hawks 109-102

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
ATLANTA -- The Houston Rockets are winning with James Harden performing like the team's new franchise player.

The Atlanta Hawks struggled in the start of their new era without their longtime franchise player.

Harden continued to shine at the start of his Houston career, scoring a career-high 45 points to lead the Rockets to a 109-102 victory over the Hawks on Friday night.

Harden, traded to the Rockets from Oklahoma City on Saturday, topped 30 points for the second time in his first week with his new team.

"He's pretty good, I'd say," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "He just kept battling and playing."

Jeremy Lin, who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, said Harden makes a "big time" difference.

"He frees everybody up," Lin said. "He knows what he's doing. We're thankful that he showed up."

Marcus Morris had 17 points for Houston.

Rockets center Omer Asik had a career-high 19 rebounds but did not score, missing seven shots from the field.

Lou Williams led the Hawks with 22 points in his Atlanta debut. Josh Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Williams averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game with the Sixers last season when he was runner-up to Harden for NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Williams appears bound for another year as a sixth man. Harden is thriving in his new role as a starter.

"It's a lot different," Harden said. "Having the offense run basically through you, it's a lot different, but that's my job now so I've got to get used to it."

Harden said he wasn't focused on his impressive scoring in his first two games.

"I don't even worry about it," he said. "I just go out there and play hard."

The Hawks traded six-time All-Star Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets in July for five players and a draft pick. Johnson averaged more than 20 points in five of his seven seasons as Atlanta's top player.

"We're still trying to establish an identity," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "That may take a little time to do."

Drew said his team struggled in rebounding and on defense, especially in helping stop Harden's drives.

"When he gets the basketball in transition, he's going to get to the basket," Drew said. "It won't be just one guy's responsibility, it will be a team responsibility."

With the game tied 92-92, Harden had consecutive baskets, including a three-point play, to give Houston the lead for good. Chandler Parson's 3-pointer with 1:55 remaining pushed the lead to 100-94.

Harden was 14 of 19 from the field and 15 of 17 from the free throw line. Harden's 17 free-throw attempts matched Atlanta's total.

Harden, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension with Houston following the trade, had 37 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in a 105-96 win at Detroit in his debut on Wednesday night.

Houston led after each of the first three periods. The Rockets took a 68-52 lead in the third before Atlanta cut the deficit to 81-74 at the end of the quarter.

A basket by Smith with 7:12 remaining gave Atlanta an 88-87 lead, its first since the opening period.

"We were just trying to put together as many stops as we could," Williams said. "We battled our way back into the game to even get it to that point."

The Rockets are 2-0, but McHale said the team needs work on closing out wins.

"We need a few days together in the gym where we can slow some things down and figure out how we want to finish games," McHale said.

After a preseason of sampling lineup combinations, Drew had two newcomers - Devin Harris and Kyle Korver - join Al Horford, Smith and Jeff Teague. Drew said he had "a little indecision" about Harris starting at shooting guard as the coach worried about the defensive matchup with Harden, who at 6-foot-5 is at least 3 inches taller than Harris.

DeShawn Stevenson, who could match Harden's height - and at least come close to matching Harden's beard - became an important player off the bench for Atlanta.

Stevenson had 12 points on four 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer to end the first half.

Teague had 14 points and seven assists and Horford had 14 points.

The Rockets had a 58-36 advantage in rebounds.

"We have some things that we really have to focus in and work on," Drew said. "There were areas in this game where we weren't very good, very polished, particularly on the boards."

Drew said his perimeter players were beaten for too many long rebounds.

"We didn't play well, yet we gave ourselves a chance in fighting back," he said.

-- NOTES: Houston F Patrick Patterson started after missing the opener with a strained left quad. C Greg Smith (strained left foot) did not play. ... Harden's previous career high was 40 points against the Suns on April 18. ... Hawks C Johan Petro was inactive. ... Stevenson fouled out in the final minute. ... Harden is the first player to score 40 points against Atlanta since LeBron James had 43 points on March 18, 2011.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Sports
Williams, Horford pace Hawks past Indiana
Lou Williams had 21 points and a career-high 12 assists, Al Horford added 20 points and the Atlanta Hawks won their fourth straight, 109-100 over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
10:19PM ( 2 years ago )
Gwinnett wallops Greenville, 6-2
Five different Gladiators racked up multiple points, as Gwinnett dominated the Greenville Road Warriors 6-2 Saturday night at the BI-LO Center to move into a tie atop the South Division with Greenville.
10:05PM ( 2 years ago )
Teague leads Hawks past Cavaliers, 102-94
Jeff Teague scored a career-high 27 points and the Atlanta Hawks scored the game's final nine points to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-94 on Friday night.
10:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Professional Sports
Quinn taking up-tempo approach to rebuilding Falcons
As Seattle's defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn helped lead Seattle to two straight Super Bowls, including one championship. Quinn opens his first training camp as Falcons coach on Friday trying to overhaul Atlanta's woeful unit.
2:52PM ( 7 hours from now )
Orioles' Davis homers twice, rough up Braves, Teheren
Chris Davis homered twice and drove in five runs, and the Baltimore Orioles cruised past the Atlanta Braves 7-3 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory.
By The Associated Press
7:41AM ( 10 minutes from now )
Roger Goodell upholds Tom Brady's 4-game suspension
NEW YORK (AP) — The commissioner pointed to concealed evidence. The team described it as a folly. And the agent added sham to the lexicon of "Deflategate."Then the players' union said it would take it...
12:33AM ( 6 hours ago )
Mardy Fish handed first-round loss to Dudi Sela in Atlanta
The first stop of Mardy Fish's farewell tour ended quickly with a 6-4, 6-4 first-round loss to Dudi Sela in the Atlanta Open on Tuesday night.
10:56PM ( 8 hours ago )
G-Braves' win streak reaches 5 with win over Durham
The Gwinnett Braves exploded for five runs in the first inning and went on to a 9-3 win over the Durham Bulls on Tuesday at Coolray Field.
By AccessWDUN staff
10:26PM ( 9 hours ago )