HOUSTON — 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 took a four-game skid into their game against Portland. “And we had to make it soon. There is not time in the tough Western Conference to wait for a turnaround.”

Three of Houston’s losses were by 20 points and two others were by 12 or more points.

Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff will take over as interim head coach.

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.

The Rockets opened the season with three straight losses, won four in a row and are now in a four-game skid.

HORNETS: Forward Marvin Williams was fined $15,000 by the league for elbowing Knicks forward Louis Amundson in the head.

SPURS: Guard Manu Ginobili will miss the next two games with hip tightness.


ROCKETS 108, TRAIL BLAZERS 103: James Harden scored 45 points, including all nine for Houston in overtime, and the Rockets beat visiting Portland after firing Kevin McHale earlier in the day.

HORNETS 116, NETS 111: Nicolas Batum had 24 points and eight assists, and Charlotte beat visiting Brooklyn.

PACERS 112, 76ERS 85: Paul George scored 34 points and C.J. Miles added 20 to lead Indiana on the road against winless Philadelphia.

T.J. McConnell scored 16 points for Philadelphia, which dropped to 0-12 while setting a season high with 31 turnovers.

The 76ers are within five losses of matching last season’s franchise-worst start and are six defeats away from tying the NBA record, set by the 2009 Nets, for longest losing streak to begin a season.

MAGIC 104, TIMBERWOLVES 101: Evan Fournier scored 26 points and hit a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left in overtime to lift Orlando to a win at home.

THUNDER 110, PELICANS 103: Russell Westbrook had 43 points and host Oklahoma City recovered from a slow start.

HAWKS 103, KINGS 97: Paul Millsap scored 23 points, including a running one-hander with 15.7 seconds remaining as Atlanta held off visiting Sacramento.

SPURS 109, NUGGETS 98: Tony Parker scored a season-high 25 points as host San Antonio won its sixth straight.