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NBA: Rockets blast Sharks

HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Paul is quickly getting adjusted to the up-tempo, high-volume offense under Mike D’Antoni’s Houston Rockets.

Paul had 11 points, 12 assists and four steals to lead the Rockets to a 144-82 exhibition victory over the Shanghai Sharks on Thursday night.

“Knowing everybody wants the same thing and you’re rooting for each other,” Paul said. “It’s cool — equal opportunity.”

Paul, acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason, played 26 minutes and rested the fourth quarter as the Rockets cruised to victory over the overmatched Chinese team. Paul said D’Antoni drew up a play on Thursday night where he was coming off a screen to catch and shoot. He said he couldn’t remember the last time that happened.

“That stuff is fun — I’ve always enjoyed that part of the game,” Paul said. “The way we play, we don’t need a called play because there’s a lot of unselfishness in the ball movement.”

Trevor Ariza led Houston with 18 points, and James Harden had nine points, 10 assists and two blocks. Eric Gordon had 17 points, and Clint Capela had 16 points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes.

Houston jumped to a 43-16 lead after the first quarter, making its first seven shots and 13 of 29 3-point attempts in the first half. The Rockets shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc overall.

“This is a big week coming up for us — we’ve got to turn it on a little bit,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll learn a lot about where we are by the end of next week. Hopefully, we’re in a good spot because right around the corner is Golden State.”

Houston opens the regular season at Golden State to face the defending champs.

Rockets 21-year-old Chinese rookie Zhou Qi scored eight points, including a thunderous dunk, in 12 minutes. The 7-foot-1, 210-pound center played last season for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association after the Rockets drafted him with the 43rd overall pick in 2016.

Josh Akognon led Shanghai with 27 points, and Nick Minnerath had 22.

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