Associated Press

James Harden leads the way as Rockets pull away from Bulls, 115-94

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CHICAGO (AP) — James Harden had 19 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds, and the Houston Rockets used a dominant third quarter for a 115-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

Ryan Anderson added 21 points as the Rockets avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season.

Houston outscored Chicago 36-14 in the third quarter – after scoring the last nine points of the first half – on 13-of-22 shooting, including 7 of 12 on 3-pointers. Harden had six points, six assists and five rebounds in the period.

Dwyane Wade had 21 points in 25 minutes for the Bulls after missing the previous two games with a left quad strain. Chicago has dropped four straight.

Despite not having played in nearly a week, Wade was sharp at the start. He scored 12 points in seven minutes – making all five of his field-goal attempts – to help Chicago to a 33-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Bulls were still up 49-47 with just under three minutes to go in the second when things fell apart. Houston scored the final nine points of the first half for a 56-49 halftime edge and then had the first eight of the third for a run of 17 straight and a 64-49 lead.

The lead was 80-51 with just under five minutes to go in the third. The rout was on and the United Center crowd serenaded the home team with boos.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Harden scored seven of his 13 first-half points in the final 2:08, including an impressive four-point play. He was fouled as Chicago’s Michael Carter-Williams fought through a screen. Despite being knocked off balance, Harden flung the ball toward the basket and banked it in.

Bulls: In the previous four games, they averaged 15.8 points (on 28.6 percent shooting) in the fourth quarter. Coach Fred Hoiberg is hopeful the return of Wade will improve those numbers, although the point was moot with the blowout Friday. “He’s been one of the guys in the fourth quarter that’s been able to take over games at times,” Hoiberg said.

 

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.