THE FACTS: Shooting guard James Harden scored 29 points and had a career-high seven steals, leading the Houston Rockets to a 112-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday night. Harden scored 25 points in the second half and finished the game 14-for-15 from the foul line. Point guard Jeremy Lin added 20 points for the Rockets (20-14), while center Greg Smith had 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Cavaliers (8-27) point guard Kyrie Irving scored a game-best 30 points, while power forward Tristan Thompson collected 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
QUOTABLE: "James [Harden] sure made a couple of big shots down the stretch, no doubt about that. He made some great plays and, as a team, we found a way to make plays through him. He had a very good game for us."
-- Rockets coach Kevin McHale
THE STAT: Harden has scored at least 25 points in 12 straight games, moving him within one of tying Moses Malone's franchise record. "He's 'the man' now on the Houston Rockets," Irving said. "He started making shots tonight. That's what great players do." Harden also extended his streak of games with 20-plus points to 16 straight -- averaging a scorching 29.4 points during that stretch -- while upping his season average to 26.4. The fourth-year pro was acquired in a six-player trade with Oklahoma City on Oct. 27.
TURNING POINT: With 5:52 left in the fourth quarter, Harden fumbled the ball backwards as the shot clock was running out. He recovered it just in time to launch a 30-footer, which hit nothing but net and extended Houston's lead to 94-88. "My regular shots felt good, but they wouldn't fall tonight, but the shot that I heaved up and prayed about went in," Harden said, laughing. The long 3-pointer silenced the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena -- and the Cavaliers never got closer than two points the rest of the way.
QUOTABLE II: "Harden is an all-star, first and foremost, so he's going to make plays down the stretch. We just needed to tighten up on defense, but he made shots and made plays like a go-to-guy does."
-- Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson
HOT: The Rockets improved to 14-2 against the Eastern Conference this season. Their only losses came against Miami and Toronto. "Shoot, I had no idea about that," Lin said. "Maybe we should consider switching conferences." ... Harden's seven steals were one shy of the most ever against the Cavaliers. They also were two more than his high-water mark in 252 previous NBA games. ... Cleveland power forward Kevin Jones, an undrafted rookie, set career highs with six points and 12 minutes. ... Irving's four steals matched his most in 2012-2013.
NOT: Rockets center Omer Asik had four points and four fouls in 21 minutes, while small forward Chandler Parsons missed seven of his nine field goal attempts. ... The Cavaliers lost their sixth straight home game and fell to 3-12 at Quicken Loans Arena on the campaign. ... Cleveland shooting guard C.J. Miles had one assist in 26 minutes, giving him one helper in 94 minutes as a starter. He also is 15-for-41 from the field while playing with the first unit. ... Irving committed a game-high eight turnovers, equaling the most in his two-year NBA career.
QUOTABLE III: "I thought Kyrie [Irving] tried to press at times tonight. A couple of times, he might have tried to go too far -- trying to get into the lane and getting it stripped -- but everyone keeps forgetting this is only his second year, as well."
-- Cavaliers coach Byron Scott
GOOD MOVE: When starter Asik struggled early, McHale didn't hesitate to insert the 6-foot-10 Smith at center. The second-year pro responded by making 5-for-5 field goals in an 11-point, 11-rebound performance. "This game means a lot to me, and it shows that I can compete at a high level," said Smith, a Fresno State product who went unselected in the 2011 NBA Draft. "I'm just working hard, trying to be ready for my opportunities whenever they come."
BAD MOVE: Scott used first-round pick Dion Waiters off the bench as Miles' backup at shooting guard for the third straight game. Waiters again looked out of sync and struggled, making 4-for-13 shots from the floor for 13 points, one assist and three turnovers. Miles also was victimized defensively by Harden, who scored most of his 16 fourth-quarter points against him. In his last six games, Waiters has only made 27-for-78 field goals (34.6 percent).
NOTABLE: Rockets rookie power forward Royce White continues to refuse to report to his NBA D-League assignment with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. When McHale was asked about White's status, he replied, "I have no idea." ... Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao (right knee bruise) missed his ninth straight game and will not play Monday at Chicago. The NBA's leading rebounder has been sidelined since taking a hard fall to the floor on Dec. 18 against Toronto, but Scott said he could practice Tuesday. ... Cavaliers shooting guard Daniel Gibson (concussion) sat out his fourth game in a row. He was injured when he absorbed a shot to the head from Hawks shooting guard Anthony Morrow on Dec. 28. ... Old school rappers Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock performed at halftime.
UP NEXT: For the Rockets, Tuesday vs. L.A. Lakers, Wednesday @ New Orleans, Friday @ Boston. For the Cavaliers, Monday @ Chicago, Wednesday vs. Atlanta, Friday @ Denver.