James Harden scores 30, Rockets beat Hornets 107-95 (VIDEO)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) James Harden had another big offensive night for the Houston Rockets, though the All-Star guard was more excited about his team’s effort on the other side of the ball.

Harden had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and the Rockets forced 22 turnovers that led to 27 points in a 107-95 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night.

“Our communication was really good,” Harden said. “We switched off and we contained the ball and contained their shots and closed out. And we made tough shots and took care of the basketball. If we do all of those consistently, we’ll be a very good team.”

They already are.

Patrick Beverley had 17 points and Montrezl Harrell added 15 off the bench as the Rockets improved to 39-17.

It was the 25th time Harden has scored at least 30 points along with his league-high 44th double-double. Harden shook off a 2-of-11 start from the field with a big third quarter.

“They’re not going to shut him out the whole game,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s pretty good. He’s pretty special.”

Harden was just 8 of 21 from the field and had nine turnovers but picked up his play in a decisive third quarter as the Rockets erased a nine-point deficit by outscoring the Hornets 36-22.

Charlotte had 12 turnovers in the third quarter alone.

“That’s just too much, especially against that team – a team that can score,” said Hornets guard Nic Batum, who finished with a team-high 15 points and 10 assists.

Kemba Walker had 14 points and a season-high six turnovers for the Hornets, who have lost eight of nine.

The Hornets built a 54-50 halftime lead, holding Harden to 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting.

But the game got away in the third quarter after a series of miscues, including two bad passes by Batum. The Rockets took command with Harden scoring 14 points.

“James took over the game,” Batum said. “I don’t know who is going to be the MVP, but he’s up there.”

Beverley stretched Houston’s lead to double digits with less than 3 minutes to play, sending fans streaming to the exits when he knocked down a jumper in the corner over Walker, then stared down the Hornets All-Star point guard and put his hand over his face as he retreated down the floor. The Hornets never challenged after that.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Clint Capela had his 30th game this season with 10-plus points, scoring 11.

Hornets: Cody Zeller returned to the starting lineup after missing seven games with a quad contusion. However, he left the game in the second half with soreness in the quad and finished with nine points and four rebounds.

SHORT BENCH

Eric Gordon (back soreness) and Nene (shoulder) did not play for the Rockets.

Houston only used eight players, but six finished in double digits in scoring.

“This is what we need in games like that. Everybody stepped up tonight and was playing well,” said Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, who had 14 points. “Everybody was aggressive (and) making shots. This is what we needed to win the game again.”

NENE’s SHOULDER

D’Antoni said Nene’s shoulder is “not bad” but he needed the rest.

BEVERLEY COMES THROUGH

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford felt Beverley was the difference in the game, hitting two big 3-pointers in the second half.

“He ran their team. He was their secondary pick-and-roll player and outside of Harden, he was the key to the game,” Clifford said.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Return home to host Phoenix on Saturday night.

Hornets: Host the Clippers on Saturday night.

Draymond Green goes down, Rockets rally to spoil Warriors ring night 122-121

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Draymond Green is not the best player on the Warriors. He’s third or fourth best, depending on what you think of him vs. Klay Thompson.

But Draymond Green is the most important Warrior — what they do defensively does not work without him (and their small ball playmaking suffers as well). Without him, the Warriors are not the same.

That was on full display Tuesday night in the season opener — the night the Warriors got their 31-diamond rings and the latest banner went up at Oracle Arena. Green tweaked his knee in the third quarter landing off a shot and did not play in the fourth, and that’s when the Rockets outscored the Warriors 34-20 to come from behind and steal a win, 122-121.

Green was diagnosed with a “knee strain” and was walking around after the game without a cast/boot/crutches, although with a slight limp according to reports. He said this is nothing serious, although don’t be shocked if the Warriors give him another game or two off to rest it.

Kevin Durant almost saved the day for Golden State with a baseline jumper as time expired — the referees called it good, but an official review showed the ball was still in his hands when the buzzer went off.

James Harden had 27 points and 10 assists to lead the Rockets. However, the real story was their revamped bench outplaying the Golden State bench — Eric Gordon looked like the sixth man of the year with 24 points, P.J. Tucker had 20 and shot 4-of-6 from three, and Luc Mbah a Moute added 14.

The Rockets made their final push with Chris Paul sitting on the bench. CP3 sat the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game, and the Rockets thrived with Gordon, Harden and an old-school (meaning, like last season) offense. After the game, coach Mike D’Antoni said that Paul was out there “playing on one leg” due to his knee problem, and Paul could miss more time.

Golden State was also without Andre Iguodala, who tweaked his back lifting weights over the weekend, according to coach Steve Kerr. Not having Green or Iguodala hurt the Warriors defense, especially against an elite offensive team.

Surprisingly, Nick Young led the Warriors with 23 points off the bench, hitting 6-of-7 from three. Stephen Curry added in 22, Kevin Durant scored 20 and Klay Thompson 16. However, in the fourth quarter the Warriors big three of Durant, Curry, and Thompson were 5-of-14 from the floor and 2-of-7 from three. Curry could not find the range.

Last season the Spurs blew the Warriors out by 29 on opening night, and the Warriors bounced back to win 67 games and the NBA title. Nobody should read too much into an opening night win. But for a Rockets team with dreams of challenging these Warriors in May, this is a good confidence boost to start the season.

Kevin Durant’s game winner waived off, he didn’t get shot off in time

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With Draymond Green sidelined after tweaking his knee in the third quarter, the Houston Rockets were able to make a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback and upset the Golden State.

But Kevin Durant almost saved the game for the Warriors.

Down one with 10 seconds to go, the Warriors were able to get Stephen Curry a good look at a three but he missed it. The ball was volleyballed around a little, and Durant got a hold of it and took a 15-footer along the baseline that the referees on the court ruled a game-winner — but when reviewed it left his hand a fraction of a second too late.

It was the right call. And this is a big boost for the Rockets as they try to find their identity going into a long season.

 

The Warriors’ championship rings have 31 diamonds in them (VIDEO)

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Tuesday night meant the return of NBA basketball, and of course what we all wanted to see: the Golden State Warriors.

In the second game of the evening, the Warriors squared off against the Houston Rockets. Before the teams tipped, the Warriors received their championship rings in front of their hometown crowd at Oracle Arena.

Wearing special Nike hoodies with the phrase “The Champions” on the back, the Warriors received their rings to a standing ovation.

Perhaps the best part of the ceremony was finding out the official gemstone count in the rings. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver, the rings have 31 diamonds in them.

Via Twitter:

Hmm. 31.

3-1.

3-1 lead.

Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.

Report: Cavaliers ditched Kyrie Irving tribute video idea vs. Celtics

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It was the first game for Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving back in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Irving spent the first six years of his career in Cleveland before being traded to the Celtics over the summer.

Of course, there was no love lost between the two teams nor between Cavaliers fans and Irving. Boston won the opening tip which Irving gathered, prompting a round of boos from the audience at The Q.

Perhaps more interesting was that the Cavaliers had a tribute video lined up for Irving but decided not to run it.

According to multiple reports, the video was set to run during a floating point in the game, but the operations folks in Cleveland never found the right time.

Another report from Cleveland.com has said that the aforementioned video had set off a few Cavaliers players.

Via Cleveland.com:

According to team spokesman Tad Carper, multiple Cavs officials, including majority owner Dan Gilbert, chose not to show the video because “we were expecting to run it at a floating opportunity based on the right moment, and we felt that moment never presented itself.”

Carper said the decision to cancel the video was not “directly” tied to the gruesome ankle injury to Celtics guard Gordon Hayward with 6:50 left in the first quarter, either.

A source with direct knowledge of Cavs’ players thinking told cleveland.com that several inside the Cleveland locker room were upset Monday upon hearing that a video was planned.

The video would have upset some inside the Cleveland locker room? I wonder which ones.