Chris Paul improves to 12-0 as Rockets pick up 11th straight win

HOUSTON -- Chris Paul still hasn't lost with the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets extended their winning streak to 11 games -- a roll that started when Paul returned from a monthlong absence due to a knee injury -- with a 108-96 victory Wednesday night over the Charlotte Hornets.

Houston is 12-0 in games played by Paul, who missed nearly a month this season with a bruised left knee. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the most consecutive wins for a starter with a new team since the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls won their first 13 games with Dennis Rodman.

"It's all good and well. It's nice," said Paul, who pushed for a July trade from the LA Clippers to team with MVP candidate James Harden in Houston. "I've been on a team that won 17 games in a row, and it didn't feel like that. You know what I mean? Just because it's all about playing the right way, it's all about building. You can win however many games you want in a row. It means nothing if you're not playing the right way, but right now we're playing the right way and still trying to get better."

Paul starred in Wednesday's win, scoring a season-high 31 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out 11 assists. He accounted for 21 points during the Rockets' 25-0 run that broke the game open in the first half, scoring 13 points and getting three assists during the spurt.

Harden, the NBA's scoring leader, rested during the entire run, which occurred over 4 minutes, 25 seconds. Paul made 3 of 4 3-point attempts during that span, including one that beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter, prompting Harden to hop off the bench and celebrate with a leaping high kick.

"Just to see him have that confidence and shoot that and be aggressive and get in his bag, as we call it, it's a great sight," said Harden, who had 21 points and eight assists in what qualifies as an off night for him. "Not only to fans and teammates, but everybody around the world loves to see Chris Paul do that. Hopefully he can continue that and continue to get that confidence to where if he wants to shoot the ball three, four, five, six times in a row, he can do it."

Paul is averaging 17.2 points and 9.5 assists during the winning streak and has ramped up his scoring recently with four 20-plus-point performances in the past five games. He has been especially dominant while Harden rests. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Rockets have a plus-37.7 net rating (points per 100 possessions) with Paul on the floor without his All-Star backcourt partner during the winning streak, minutes that typically come against the opponent's second unit.

"With that unit that we have in, we play fast," Paul said of a group that usually also features defensive stopper PJ Tucker, high-scoring sixth man Eric Gordon and veteran reserve center Nene. "We push the tempo. If we're getting stops, it's going to be tough to stop us."

The Rockets, who have the NBA's best record at 22-4, have won by double digits in nine of the 11 games since Paul's return. Houston is beating teams by an average margin of 17.0 points during the winning streak.

"I don't never go into a game expecting to lose," Paul said. "I think we're just playing with the right pace, the right tempo, the right energy. It's fun."