The Rockets clinched their first Southwest Division title since 1993-94 and the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs after James Harden’s triple-double led Houston to a 117-91 win over the Jazz.
“It's a blessing. The regular season was great but whatever happened in the regular season we've got to put that behind us. This is a whole new season and we've gotta come out ready to go,” Dwight Howard said.
Harden’s 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists marked his fourth triple-double of the season, tying the franchise record for triple-doubles in a season held by Hakeem Olajuwon.
“Accompanied by a great. Hakeem's obviously a hall-of-famer. So, I'm just trying to do things to win games, help my teammates win,” Harden said.
In addition, Harden hit two three-pointers to give him 308 on the season, which falls just one short of tying the franchise record of 309 made by Aaron Brooks in 2009-10.
The win also pushed Houston’s season record to 56-26, which is the third best record in franchise history.
“It's a great accomplishment for this franchise. We have some young players that haven't achieved that yet in their careers. This milestone was something that we set out to do before the season. We earned it. With all that being said, now we know the task at hand and what's ahead of us,” Jason Terry said.
The Rockets took off in the first, shooting a blistering 11-20 (55%) in the quarter. They also held the Jazz to just 28% field goal shooting in the first half.
Rockets reserves Corey Brewer and Josh Smith led the bench scoring. Brewer had 14 points (his 38th double-digit game off the bench in 55 games for the Rockets) and Smith tallied 13 points (his 35th double-digit game off the bench in 48 games).
“We had a bunch of different guys really contributing. I thought the guys played well as a group. Josh came in and gave us a big lift. Brew was running. We got stops and got a big lead,” Kevin McHale said.
The lead continued to build in the third when it got as high as 39 – the largest lead they’ve held in any game this season.
In addition, the Rockets again hit double digit three-pointers and extended their NBA-record to 56 games this season with 10+ threes made (previous record: 51).
The Rockets will host the Dallas Mavericks in the first game of the first round at Toyota Center on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
“Dallas will be tough. Rick is a helluva coach and they've got a good team. We're going to have to play how we play and attack them. I'm sure it will be a good series,” McHale said.