James Harden has 46 and Rockets beat Blazers 119-105

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — James Harden scored 46 points and the Houston Rockets overcame a 21-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Trail Blazers 119-105 on Thursday night, snapping Portland’s six-game winning streak.

Dwight Howard added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Houston, which had lost four of five. But the Rockets proved resilient against the Blazers, rallying to tie it at 95 on Harden’s layup with 7:40 left, then taking the lead on Howard’s dunk.

The Rockets pushed with lead to 106-98 with 2:59 left and Portland couldn’t catch up. Harden’s layup and a pair of free throws stretched the lead to 112-102 and out of reach.

Damian Lillard had 23 points for the Blazers, who had won 15 of their last 18 to move into playoff position in the Western Conference. CJ McCollum added 20 points.

Lillard, who was showered with chants of “MVP! MVP!” every time he went to the free throw line earlier in the game, had scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games, equaling a team record set by Geoff Petrie in 1970-71, the franchise’s first season. But the Rockets consistently double-teamed him.

Houston’s last visit to Portland on Feb. 10 resulted in a 116-103 loss that prompted Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff to call his team “broken.”

Portland’s win in that game touched off the six-game winning streak, which included a surprising 137-105 rout of Golden State. The Blazers were coming off a 112-104 victory over Brooklyn on Tuesday night.

The Rockets were coming off a 117-114 overtime loss at Utah on Tuesday.

Maurice Harkless hit a 38-foot hurl at the buzzer to end the first quarter, putting Portland up 34-28. The Blazers stretched the lead to 57-39 on McCollum’s short jumper.

Portland was up 64-49 at the half, with Lillard at 12 points and McCollum at 11. Howard, Harden and Patrick Beverley were in double figures on Houston’s side.

McCollum’s 3-pointer early in the third quarter stretched the lead to 72-51. But Jason Terry‘s 3 for Houston closed the gap to 85-75 late in the period.

Harden hit consecutive 3-pointers that got the Rockets within 91-83, part of a run where he scored 14 straight points for the Rockets.

The Rockets were without center Clint Capela because of a sprained right foot that he hurt in practice on Wednesday.

TIP INS:

Rockets: Portland native Terrence Jones made his second appearance for the Rockets after a concussion sidelined him for five games. … Before the game, Rockets CEO Tad Brown met with team beat reporters and shot down reports that Harden had asked for former coach Kevin McHale’s firing, or that he had asked for Howard to be traded.

Trail Blazers: The Blazers head off on a six-game road trip. … The Blazers took their team photo before the game and coach Terry Stotts smiled. “I always smile – unless they tell me not to,” he said.

 

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.