That made the Detroit guard's offensive contribution that much more impressive.
Caldwell-Pope scored a season-high 28 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and the Pistons held off Harden and the Houston Rockets 114-101 on Saturday night. D.J. Augustin added 28 points and 12 assists for Detroit.
"I felt good," Caldwell-Pope said. "I got myself going with my energy on the defensive end, ran the floor to get easy baskets and that opened up my outside shooting."
Harden scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half, returning from a bruised left knee to help the Rockets nearly rally from a 21-point, third-quarter deficit.
Houston's Josh Smith was booed throughout his return to the Palace, just more than a month after the Pistons waived the high-priced forward. He had seven points and seven rebounds, shooting only 3 of 11 from the field. Detroit snapped a four-game skid and ended Houston's four-game winning streak.
"We didn't defend the 3-point line and we didn't defend the paint. They just played a lot harder than we did, and we just let them kick our tails," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We couldn't stop Augustin in any part of the floor. I tried a couple different lineups because I just wanted someone to get in front of him for a couple possessions."
The Pistons played well initially after cutting Smith, winning seven straight, and fans gave him an unfriendly welcome in his return, booing him when he went to the scorer's table to check in for the first time and also when he touched the ball.
Detroit led 59-46 at halftime and 86-69 at the start of the fourth quarter. Harden led a 19-6 run to start the fourth, but Caldwell-Pope made enough big shots down the stretch to help the Pistons hold on. The second-year guard capped the victory with a shot from well behind the 3-point line with 3.1 seconds remaining and the shot clock expiring.
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