James Harden scores 42, rallies Rockets past Bulls 121-117 in OT (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) James Harden had 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists to rally the Houston Rockets past the Chicago Bulls 121-117 in overtime Friday night.

Harden hit a step-back jumper over Paul Zipser with 36.1 seconds remaining in the extra period and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Rockets a two-point lead they never relinquished.

After losing to Atlanta on Thursday night, the Rockets improved to 12-1 this season in the second of back-to-back games.

The Bulls played without star forward Jimmy Butler, who was nursing a bruised heel. Starting in his place, Michael Carter-Williams had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists before fouling out with two minutes remaining in overtime.

Harden hit a step-back jumper over Carter-Williams to tie the game at 108 with 27.3 seconds remaining in regulation.

On the next possession, Dwyane Wade lost his dribble when guarded by Trevor Ariza, leading to a shot-clock violation with 3.3 seconds to go. Harden tried the same move against Carter-Williams at the buzzer, but his shot fell short.

Chicago dominated the Rockets’ interior defense, outscoring Houston 60-46 in the paint. Taj Gibson scored 20 points for the Bulls, and Wade had 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

The Rockets built a lead that reached 17 midway through the second quarter as they opened the period on a 26-7 run, all with Harden on the bench. Chicago cut Houston’s lead to 60-49 at halftime.

The Bulls started the third quarter on a run of their own, outscoring the Rockets 24-12 out of the extended halftime break and entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead.

In a special halftime ceremony, the Rockets retired Yao Ming’s No. 11 jersey with a dedication that featured Yao’s family, former teammates, fellow Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

TIP-INS

Bulls: In the fourth quarter, Zipser was elbowed in the face by Harden on a rebound and called for a foul. After a review, Harden also received a technical foul. . Zipser, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic all scored in double figures off the bench.

Rockets: Harden scored his 10,000th point with the Rockets late in the second quarter. He passed Yao for sixth place in franchise history. Harden scored 2,795 points in his first three seasons with Oklahoma City. . Ryan Anderson‘s shooting woes continued as he went 0 for 7 from the field, including 0 for 6 from 3-point range. He also missed both his free throw attempts.

UP NEXT

Bulls: Visit the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, the third stop on a six-game road trip.

Rockets: Host the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, the first of six straight games against teams with losing records.

Lakers hire Kardashian trainer Gunnar Peterson

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers’ new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.