James Harden never had a game like this, and he never saw a player hurt the way Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was on Saturday night.
Harden had 21 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double in the Rockets' 109-95 win over the Bobcats on Saturday night.
The Rockets broke open a close game in the fourth quarter, after Kidd-Gilchrist collided with teammate Jeff Taylor and left the court on a stretcher. Kidd-Gilchrist, the second overall pick in last year's draft out of Kentucky, was fitted with a neck brace and taken to the hospital for X-rays.
"First time I've ever seen that happen in a game," Harden said. "Definitely praying for him. A sad moment, but we just had try to get back, try to get our rhythm back."
Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap said that Kidd-Gilchrist was moving his extremities and talking as he was wheeled off the floor. Dunlap did not know if Kidd-Gilchrist would remained hospitalized in Houston overnight.
The Rockets led 81-80 early in the fourth when Kidd-Gilchrist was injured. He was trying to block Toney Douglas' driving layup and Taylor came in behind him going for the rebound.
Taylor's right hip connected with the back of Kidd-Gilchrist's head and Taylor came down on top of his teammate. Taylor heard Kidd-Gilchrist talking to the medical personnel, but he didn't speak to Kidd-Gilchrist directly.
"I didn't see anything, it happened so fast," Taylor said.
Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson scored 24 points apiece for the Rockets. Patterson hit 10 of 12 shots and scored 14 points in the final quarter to help Houston finally pull away.
"He just caught fire," Houston point guard Jeremy Lin said of Patterson. "We just kind of rode him all the way to victory."
The Bobcats rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter to take a five-point lead in the fourth. But they seemed to lose their momentum after Kidd-Gilchrist went down, and Houston finished with a 26-7 spurt.
"We can throw out any excuse we want," Dunlap said. "We know it's difficult. They're humans and they care about their teammate, but the other team had a stoppage as well."
Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Ramon Sessions had 20 points for Charlotte.
Harden came in averaging 26 points, but only 5.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds, per game. He had four rebounds and four assists in the fourth quarter to reach the unique milestone.
"It means a lot to me, it's my first time ever," Harden said. "I was trying to make shots, trying to rebound, trying to find other ways to impact the game other than scoring."
The Rockets never trailed in the first half, repeatedly beating the Bobcats down the floor for easy baskets.
Charlotte held Harden to four points in the opening quarter and cut the deficit to 32-27 heading to the second.
Parsons swooped in for a putback dunk after Omer Asik missed a free throw early in the second quarter as the Rockets started stretching the lead again. Parsons already had 17 points with eight minutes left in the half, then zipped a cross-court pass to Harden for a layup and a 44-32 Rockets lead.
Houston had 16 assists on 24 first-half field goals and led 62-51 at the break.
Harden scored seven points, including a 3-pointer, in the first five minutes of the third quarter. He also earned a technical foul for mouthing off at a referee over a call, as the Bobcats began turning the tide.
"All the stuff we did really well [in the first half], we couldn't do in the third," Houston coach Kevin McHale said.
The Bobcats cut into the deficit with solid defence, holding the Rockets to only six field goals in the third quarter. Walker sank a 3-pointer and Taylor finished the quarter with a dunk to make it 79-77 heading to the fourth.
The Rockets took control again over the final nine minutes. Patterson sank a pair of 3-pointers and Harden finishing the Bobcats off with a layup and a long jumper.