HOUSTON — With the Rockets on the verge of signing veteran swingman Joe Johnson to bolster their already stout rotation, forward Ryan Anderson is viewed as the most likely candidate to have his playing time impacted whenever Johnson arrives and acclimates.
Anderson, earning an annual salary of $20 million, is averaging career lows in points per 36 minutes (12.7) and usage rate (14.3 percent), numbers that have not only negated his career-high 56.6 effective field goal percentage but drawn the ire of Rockets fans convinced that Anderson is the weak link on their championship contender. An overpaid weak link, to boot.
But with the Johnson signing imminent, Anderson on Tuesday excelled in what was his third consecutive appearance off the bench, pouring in 12 of his 21 points in a dramatic fourth quarter to help lead the Rockets to their ninth consecutive win, a 126-108 victory at Minnesota.
Anderson drilled four 3-pointers in succession as the Rockets turned a four-point lead into a runway triumph.
Houston (43-13) has one game remaining before the All-Star Game break, hosting the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night at Toyota Center. And with Johnson and Brandan Wright expected to be in the fold when the stretch run commences next week, Anderson picked a fine time to reinforce how valuable his perimeter shooting is to the Rockets.
“Ryno, I think, at times it’s hard for not only him but for others to see his value to our team,” Rockets guard Chris Paul said. “He just kept backing up on the 3, just kept backing up, and that opens up the court so much for everybody else. That’s big.”
The Rockets hit 22 of 47 3-pointers in the victory, with Anderson sinking 6 of 10 from deep. It marked the fourth time this season that Anderson has made at least six 3-pointers in a game.
Houston has won 13 of 14 games since guard James Harden returned from a left hamstring strain. The Rockets defeated Sacramento 105-100 in the Kings’ home opener Oct. 18.
The Kings (18-38) built a 26-point early in the third quarter and coasted to a 114-109 victory over the Mavericks in Dallas on Tuesday. After losing 22 consecutive games at American Airlines Center from 2003-16, the Kings have won four of five in Dallas, including twice this season.
Veteran forward Zach Randolph scored a game-high 22 points in the victory, with Sacramento still maintaining a delicate balance between developing its youth while leaning on the savvy of Randolph and 41-year-old swingman Vince Carter, who posted eight points and seven assists.
“For us, the veterans, we have to lead by example,” Carter said.
The Kings shipped veteran guard George Hill to Cleveland at the trade deadline last week and bought out Johnson after he arrived in Sacramento as part of that three-team swap. Randolph, playing in his 17th season, and Carter remain, with the aim of stewarding a Kings roster featuring nine players under the age of 25.
Three rookies — Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson — were in the starting lineup against the Mavericks.