Rockets’ James Harden sits out win vs. Mavericks with left knee soreness

Houston Rockets superstar guard James Harden sat out of his team’s 105-82 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday due to left knee soreness.

Coach Mike D’Antoni said that Harden, who is leading the NBA in scoring with 31.1 points per game and ranks third in assists (8.8 per game), will play in Monday’s home game against the San Antonio Spurs.

We don’t have the luxury of just taking nights off, he said. We’re not where we want to be. We’re not that good yet. So we have to go out there and approach every single game, no matter who we’re playing, like it’s a playoff game. We’re 15 games away, so it’s time to take it serious.

Harden scored 16 of his 28 points in the third quarter to allow the Rockets to build a huge lead and sail to a 109-93 victory Monday night.

The NBA’s leading scorer took a little while to get going a night after sitting out against Dallas with a sore left knee and had just 12 points at halftime.

Despite his slow start, the Rockets had a comfortable lead in the third and were still up by 13 after a basket by San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray with about eight minutes left in the quarter. It was then that Harden took over, scoring the next eight points to start a 16-4 run that extended the lead to 82-57 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third and had coach Gregg Popovich calling for a timeout.

The Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Rockets teams with D’Antoni on the sideline had a combined 6-20 record in playoff games against the Spurs. Then again, with all due respect to the Steve Nash-run Suns, none of those teams were nearly as dominant as these Rockets, who have won 19 of the past 20 games and are a ridiculous 35-2 when James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela all play.

And these Spurs — even with LaMarcus Aldridge (sore knee) and Manu Ginobili (rest), who both sat out against the Rockets — look nothing like the perennial contenders who have made the playoffs each of the previous 20 seasons, the third-longest postseason streak in NBA history. In fact, the Spurs find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture this late in the season for the first time since Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

It was a very solid game. He looked big to me tonight, Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. A very solid play. It looked like when they shot nothing was going to go in.

Kuemper had 24 saves in the Coyotes’ 2-1 win at Vancouver on Wednesday in his Arizona debut.

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