Kurt Helin

James Harden leads Rockets past Nets for seventh straight win

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets overcame their inability to make defensive stops by running over the Brooklyn Nets on the offensive end.

James Harden had 36 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds to lead the Rockets to their seventh straight win, 122-118 over the Nets on Monday night.

“There’s 82 games – every game isn’t going to be perfect,” Harden said. “You’ve got to figure out ways to win, and that’s what we did tonight.”

Eric Gordon scored 24 points on 6-for-10 shooting on 3-pointers, and Ryan Anderson added 19.for the Rockets. Houston shot 17 for 43 on 3s, making at least 10 for an NBA-record 24th straight game.

Brook Lopez scored 26 points and Sean Kilpatrick added 17 for the Nets.

“They made some plays and we didn’t,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It could’ve gone either way.”

Jeremy Lin returned to action for Brooklyn for the first time since Nov. 2 when he suffered a strained left hamstring. Although Lin did not start, he played 20 minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points.

Atkinson said Lin’s presence on the court helped Brooklyn’s offense by keeping the team organized and said he was glad Lin didn’t try to do too much following a five-week absence.

“I felt a lot better than I thought I would with my wind, but I struggled with the rhythm,” Lin said. “The shots, the feel and getting back out there – you practice all these shots, but I got in there and it felt like I was shooting a football.”

Brooklyn trailed for much of the game until Joe Harris tied it at 118 with a layup with less than 40 seconds remaining.

Gordon gave Houston a two-point lead with a free throw with 11.9 seconds left, and the Rockets came up with a key steal on the ensuing inbound pass. Gordon then made two more from the line and the Rockets held on for the win.

“We were just lackadaisical,” Gordon said. “Luckily, we made some plays in the end that helped us win. We definitely need a wake-up call, but we know what we need to do. It’s good that we get a win, but there’s all the little things that we need to do to be a better team.”

The Rockets improved to 7-0 in December while knocking Brooklyn down to 1-5 in the month. The Nets haven’t won on the road since Nov. 12.

Houston outscored Brooklyn by five in each of the first two quarters to take a 53-43 lead at the half. Brooklyn cut the lead to five to start the fourth quarter.

“I think we can look at ourselves in the mirror and say individually we could have done a better job, and as a team, we could have done a better job, too,” Anderson said.

TIP-INS

Nets: C Justin Hamilton missed his second straight game with migraines. Atkinson said he will be reevaluated in a few days. … The Nets scored 42 points in the third quarter, the team’s most points in a quarter this season.

Rockets: Houston allowed 68 points in the paint, a season high for their opponents. … Harden passed Eric “Sleepy” Floyd (2,363 assists) for seventh on the franchise’s all-time assists list. … Trevor Ariza had three steals and two blocks for Houston.

COVERING LOPEZ

The Rockets struggled to contain Brook Lopez for the entire game. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni switched gears and let veteran center Nene play 24 minutes off the bench and starting center Clint Capela less than 19 minutes.

When asked if Nene was a better matchup for Lopez than Capela, D’Antoni didn’t hesitate.

“Much better, much better,” D’Antoni said. “Nene’s more experienced, more bulk. Clint will learn through this stuff, and Brook is a very good offensive player, really good offensive player. They all had their hands full with him.”

WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME

Until he came up with his only rebound of the game with less than 16.9 seconds remaining, Lopez was nearly held without a rebound for the first time since March 26, 2011, when he went without a rebound in 31 minutes against Atlanta.

“I need to be more aggressive getting to the glass,” Lopez said. “I’m not trying to make any excuses – I need to do better in that category.”

HONORING SCOLA

Nets forward Luis Scola, who played with Houston from 2007-12, was honored by the Rockets after the first quarter as part of the team’s celebration of its 50th season. A video tribute featuring interviews from Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier was played and Scola was given an ovation when shown on the videoboard.

 

Luke Walton snaps, earns first ejection as Lakers’ coach (VIDEO)

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Luke Walton is frustrated.

His Lakers were in Sacramento and on their way to a seventh straight loss. He was frustrated with the officiating all game, and when he thought DeMarcus Cousins pulled Julius Randle to the ground without a call he lost it. Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram held him back.

The Lakers lost their cool and picked up five technicals in the game, including one for Brian Shaw, who had taken over as coach after Walton was ejected. Cousins also got one, because what else did you expect.

This was the first game of a six-game road trip for the Lakers, who could see a lot more frustration before it is over.

Dallas’ Salah Mejri with the crushing rejection of Will Barton (VIDEO)

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Denver’s Will Barton thought he had a lane to the rim — he pushed the ball up, and the Dallas defense was not set. The seas parted.

Then Dallas’ Salah Mejri closed it up and sent Barton’s shot flying with a powerful rejection.

This was Dallas’ night, they got 25 from Wesley Matthews, and 18 from Harrison Barnes on 11 shots, and the Mavs picked up the 112-92 win at home.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas flys (kinda) for the alley-oop slam (VIDEO)

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Jonas Valanciunas isn’t exactly known for his hops.

But his length and enough vertical led to an impressive dunk for the Raptors’ big man off the pass from DeMarre Carroll in the first quarter of the eventual Raptors win over the Bucks.

Valanciunas had double-digit points and rebounds on the night, but it was the Raptors killer lineup of Kyle Lowry and the bench that had Toronto pulling away from the Bucks for the win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo gets blocked by Raptors’ Pascal Siakam (VIDEO)

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Pascal Siakam has quietly had a strong rookie season for the Raptors, he probably would be second or third in Rookie of the Year voting right now (behind Joel Embiid and probably Jamal Murray). He’s started all 23 games for the second-best team in the East, not done a lot on offense (5.9 points per game) but has been efficient doing it (58.6 true shooting percentage) and has played solid defense.

Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Greek Freak gets to the rim as well as anyone in the league, but Siakam shut him down in the first quarter of Monday night’s Bucks/Raptors game.