Six months ago, Kevin McHale coached the Houston Rockets to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 18 years.
There are high expectations for the team again this season behind James Harden and Dwight Howard, but McHale won’t be around to see where the Rockets end up: Houston fired McHale on Wednesday with the team off to a puzzling 4-7 start.
‘‘The team was not responding to Kevin McHale and we had to make the tough call,’’ general manager Daryl Morey said a few hours before the Rockets ended their four-game skid with a 108-103 overtime victory over Portland at the Toyota Center. ‘‘And we had to make it soon. There is not time in the tough Western Conference to wait for a turnaround.’’
The Rockets managed to snap the skid under interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff as Harden scored 45 points, including all 9 for Houston in overtime. Corey Brewer made an off-balance 3-pointer to force the OT and Harden took over from there, finishing with 11 assists, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals.
Houston played much of the game with sloppy mistakes and dreadful shooting before Harden took over.
Bickerstaff replaced struggling guard Ty Lawson at point guard with 38-year-old Jason Terry, who got his first start of the season but had just 5 points with five fouls in 29 minutes.
McHale was in his fifth season with Houston and is coming off a 56-26 season in which the Rockets fell to eventual champion Golden State in the conference championship. The 57-year-old Hall of Fame player went 193-130 with the Rockets.
‘‘Bottom line is we believe in this team,’’ Morey said. ‘‘We believe in the players we have. We know this team can win. We know but we aren’t in a good place and . . . we’re going to make changes until we win.’’
Video: Rick Carlisle calls McHale’s firing ‘preposterous’
Pacers 112, 76ers 85 — Paul George scored 34 points and visiting Indiana sent Philadelphia (31 turnovers) to its 12th straight loss to open the season.
Spurs 109, Nuggets 98 — Tony Parker had 25 points and host San Antonio won its sixth straight.
Magic 104, Timberwolves 101 — Evan Fournier hit a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left in overtime to lift host Orlando.
Hornets 116, Nets 111 — Nicolas Batum had 24 points to spark host Charlotte.
Hawks 103, Kings 97 — Paul Millsap scored 23 points for host Atlanta.
Jazz 93, Raptors 89 — Utah used an 11-2 run late in the fourth quarter to win at home.
Thunder 110, Pelicans 103 — Anthony Davis (shoulder injury) sat out, and visiting New Orleans couldn’t stop Russell Westbrook (43 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) in a road loss.
. . .
In a late game Tuesday, Stephen Curry scored 37 points to lead host Golden State to its 12th straight win to open the season, 115-110, over Toronto.