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No longer ‘soft’, Rockets’ defense pleases Harden

CHICAGO — James Harden exited the game and took a seat next to Thabo Sefolosha on the Houston Rockets bench with 3:37 remaining in the fourth quarter at the United Center on Saturday.

He ended the night one point shy of a triple-double with 42 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, also passing Bulls legend Scottie Pippen for 58th on the NBA all-time scoring list, but it was Houston’s defensive effort that pleased him more in the 117-94 win.

“Our talk, our aggressiveness, we’re getting after it,” Harden said of the defensive effort. “We were too soft earlier, the first couple games we were too soft. So, we’ve got to make teams feel us a little bit more defensively.”

Through Nov. 3, following 129-100 loss in Miami, only the Golden State Warriors had a worse defensive rating than the Rockets (116.2). However, in Week 3, the Rockets went 3-0, while their defensive efficiency was 97.5 points per 100 possessions allowed — good for 3rd best behind Denver and Lakers since November 4.

Chicago’s 94 points were the fewest allowed by the Rockets this season.

“That’s been a point of emphasis to try to keep teams under 100,” said Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, who posted four points and five boards. “We know even on our worst night, we’re still gonna score 100 points so, if we keep teams under 24 a quarter we will be alright and will have a really good chance to win the game so it’s something from here on out we always try to take advantage of.”

Chicago (3-7) went 4-for-32 from beyond the arc (12.5 percent) which is the 6th-worst 3-point field goal percentage in a game in NBA history, with a minimum of 30 3-point field goal attempts according to ESPN Stats & Information.

That mark was also the second-worst in a game in Bulls history, with the same minimum. Houston outscored Chicago 36-18 in the third quarter to pull away on the night.

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