Kurt Helin

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James Harden calls out Mavericks after Rockets’ 123-107 win in game with eight technicals

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DALLAS (AP) — James Harden was called for one of the eight technicals in a game that turned tense when Dallas center Andrew Bogut received a flagrant foul on a hard screen that staggered Houston’s star guard.

Despite 34 points and an easy 123-107 victory that completed a four-game season sweep of the last-place Mavericks on Tuesday night, Harden wasn’t happy.

“That other team was trippin’ tonight, just disrespectful, unprofessional, players and coaches,” Harden said. “I don’t know what was their problem, but I think that got us going. They wanted to throw a little cheap shot and just woke us up a little bit and it was over from there.”

Bogut was equally frustrated in his return after missing 11 games with a right knee injury. The call came in the second quarter, near the end of a 16-0 Houston run that broke a 37-all tie. Harden doubled over after running head-first into the 7-foot, 260-pound Bogut’s shoulder.

“If you watch the replay, yeah, he made no effort to run around my screen,” said Bogut, who had a couple of sharp verbal exchanges with Harden. “Yeah, it was a hard screen and I set hard screens. But to get a flagrant for it is kind of head-scratching.

“You admire the effort the league’s putting in in Secaucus (New Jersey) with that beautiful facility where they watch replays and watch TV and have leather chairs and all that kind of stuff. But you scratch your head at a lot of these things and it becomes very, very frustrating.”

Trevor Ariza was ejected after his second technical during the break after the third quarter, when five technicals were called. After the game, he was waiting outside the Dallas locker room for Mavericks center Salah Mejri.

Security had to make sure the pair didn’t interact after an exchange during the game that led to Ariza’s first technical. Houston was called for five and Dallas three.

“It wasn’t even basketball,” Dallas guard Wesley Matthews said. “Tempers, two in-state teams, we play each other four times, we’ve had battles in the past, so it is what it is. But we’ve got to be better than that. That was an opportunity for us to channel it into basketball and we didn’t do that.”

Harden had 24 points at halftime and finished with 11 assists without playing in the fourth quarter. The Rockets improved to 13-2 in December.

With two games left in the month, Houston can tie the franchise record of 15 wins from November 1996.

Harrison Barnes scored 21 for the last-place Mavericks, who lost their second straight following their first two-game winning streak of the season.

There were also two flagrant fouls, both against Dallas.

Most of the technicals came during dead-ball situations, with players and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle complaining to officials. Carlisle mockingly clapped at the refs, saying “good call,” after he was whistled for one.

“They tried to defend by being real physical and thinking that’s the way to do it,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t really want to get into it just because it doesn’t serve any purpose. We needed the win. We came out and we took care of business.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley sat out with a left quadriceps contusion. It’s not expected to be a long-term injury. … Sam Dekker had a game-high 11 rebounds. … The Rockets are 7-0 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.

Mavericks: G Pierre Jackson was signed off the Mavericks’ NBA Development League team, and G Jonathan Gibson was waived. Jackson, a former Baylor guard who was drafted in 2013, made his NBA debut in the fourth quarter and scored seven points. … Matthews had 19 points.

BESIDES THE TECHS

There were a couple of face-to-face confrontations, the first ending in double technicals in the second quarter for Dallas’ Justin Anderson and Nene. Later in the quarter, Houston’s Ryan Anderson went nose-to-nose with Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki without a technical being called.

RARE GATHERING

The Mavericks had their projected starting five for just the fourth time, and first since a 128-90 loss at Cleveland on Nov. 25. The lineup is winless. Bogut and Nowitzki, in his third game back from his latest absence for a sore right Achilles tendon, stayed in the locker room at halftime. Bogut went scoreless with six rebounds in 10 minutes, and Nowitzki scored seven points.

Spurs waive Argentinian guard Nico Laprovittola

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After a strong performance at the Olympics in Rio, the Spurs decided to give Argentine Nico Laprovittola a shot to make the roster. And he did, the Spurs saw the 26-year-old point guard as someone who could give them depth at the position and fit in with their international team.

That didn’t pan out. On Tuesday, the Spurs waived Laprovittola, who had gotten in 18 games for the team, averaging less than 10 minutes a game, but was struggling to adapt to the NBA game.

Why make the move now? Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports explains.

The Spurs are 25-6 and the second-seeded team in the West, but there are questions about how far this roster can go in the playoffs against more athletic opponents (such as Golden State or the Clippers if healthy). Expect them to look at some moves as the trade deadline approaches, but where they stand is also still very good.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey helping create new musical called “Small Ball”

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Daryl Morey is not the next Lin-Manuel Miranda, but he’s not throwing away his shot.

Morey is a musical theater aficionado, something that transports him away from the realm of analytics and matchups, but he’s doing more than just buying season seats at Sarofim Hall, he’s getting involved in helping create a new musical. About basketball. And undersized stars.

The Houston Chronicle’s Hunter Atkins has the details:

He has collaborated with playwright Mickle Maher on a treatment for a musical he titled “Small Ball.”

The premise: The people of Lilliput, a fictional island nation that appears in the 1726 novel “Gulliver’s Travels,” want to join an international basketball league. But to be competitive enough for that, they import “Michael Jordan,” a man who turns out not to be the NBA Hall-of-Famer but happens to have the same name. This merger of his life passions is not a pipe dream. Morey said the show will debut in Houston within 18 months.

“It’s definitely happening,” he said.

Before you mock the concept of the musical, let’s run through the premises of today’s biggest musicals: A hip-hop retelling of the life of Alexander Hamilton; Mormon missionaries in Africa, as seen through the eyes of the creators of South Park; an Elizabethan playwright trying to write the world’s first musical; a drag queen cabaret performer who comes up with a line of high-heeled boots that saves a small shoe business; I could go on, but you get the idea. Lilliputians playing hoops isn’t so crazy.

Now, if one of those Lilliputians has a fantastic beard and is their best player, I can think of someone who may want a cut of the royalties.

Kevin Durant calls two-minute report “b*******”; Steve Kerr says officials didn’t decide game

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The NBA admitted that the officials missed it: Richard Jefferson tripped Kevin Durant on the final play of the Cavaliers come-from-behind Christmas Day win over the Warriors.

Durant said he would have made the game winning shot if he hadn’t been tripped — then he became the latest in a long line of players, coaches, and GMs to slam the “two-minute reports” on officiating in tight games. Via Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

“The refs didn’t lose us that game,” he began after practice Tuesday. “We lost that game; we could’ve been better.

“I think it’s b******* that the NBA throws the refs under the bus like that. This happened to be in our favor – it’s not even in our favor; we don’t get the win – but to say that I got fouled and the tech . . . just move on. You don’t throw the refs under the bus like that, because the next game that group of refs, or whoever it is, they’re going to come out and they’re going to ref the game and they’re going to be tense when they’re reffing the game and they’re going to try to get every play right. They’re going to try to be perfect, without just going out there and relaxing and making the right call. You can’t fine us for criticizing (and then) throw them under the bus for a two-minute report? What about the first quarter? The second quarter? The third quarter? I think it’s b*******.”

Steve Kerr echoed Durant’s first point — the Warriors lost that game for themselves, not the officials.”

The essential part of Kerr’s quote: “The officials didn’t decide that game, we had a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter, it was our mistakes that I’m more concerned about.”

Mistakes such as how his team shot 1-of-11 outside the paint in the fourth quarter, how the Cavaliers frustrate Stephen Curry and seem to be in his head, and how the Warriors play fast and loose with the ball but the Cavaliers make them pay with turnovers. That is what cost them a game on Christmas.

Kerr’s job is to not let those things cost them games in June.

Chinanu Onuaku brings underhanded free throw to NBA regular season

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He did it while at Louisville. He did it in the NBA preseason and has continued to do it in the D-League.

Monday, Rockets’ rookie Chinanu Onuaku brought the “granny style” underhanded free throw back to the NBA regular season. Somewhere, Rick Barry is smiling.

Onuaku was called up to the Rockets with Clint Capela out injured, and the rookie got a little run at the end of the Rockets’ blowout win over the Suns. Onuaku was fouled, went to the line, shot underhanded — and knocked down both shots. He’s shooting 67.4 percent from the charity stripe in the D-League. It works for him.

Laugh if you want, but if Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan or any of the other hack-a-player targets shot 67 percent from the line that tactic would die quickly. And we’d all be better off.