James Harden scores 42, rallies Rockets past Bulls 121-117 in OT (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) James Harden had 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists to rally the Houston Rockets past the Chicago Bulls 121-117 in overtime Friday night.

Harden hit a step-back jumper over Paul Zipser with 36.1 seconds remaining in the extra period and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Rockets a two-point lead they never relinquished.

After losing to Atlanta on Thursday night, the Rockets improved to 12-1 this season in the second of back-to-back games.

The Bulls played without star forward Jimmy Butler, who was nursing a bruised heel. Starting in his place, Michael Carter-Williams had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists before fouling out with two minutes remaining in overtime.

Harden hit a step-back jumper over Carter-Williams to tie the game at 108 with 27.3 seconds remaining in regulation.

On the next possession, Dwyane Wade lost his dribble when guarded by Trevor Ariza, leading to a shot-clock violation with 3.3 seconds to go. Harden tried the same move against Carter-Williams at the buzzer, but his shot fell short.

Chicago dominated the Rockets’ interior defense, outscoring Houston 60-46 in the paint. Taj Gibson scored 20 points for the Bulls, and Wade had 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

The Rockets built a lead that reached 17 midway through the second quarter as they opened the period on a 26-7 run, all with Harden on the bench. Chicago cut Houston’s lead to 60-49 at halftime.

The Bulls started the third quarter on a run of their own, outscoring the Rockets 24-12 out of the extended halftime break and entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead.

In a special halftime ceremony, the Rockets retired Yao Ming’s No. 11 jersey with a dedication that featured Yao’s family, former teammates, fellow Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

TIP-INS

Bulls: In the fourth quarter, Zipser was elbowed in the face by Harden on a rebound and called for a foul. After a review, Harden also received a technical foul. . Zipser, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic all scored in double figures off the bench.

Rockets: Harden scored his 10,000th point with the Rockets late in the second quarter. He passed Yao for sixth place in franchise history. Harden scored 2,795 points in his first three seasons with Oklahoma City. . Ryan Anderson‘s shooting woes continued as he went 0 for 7 from the field, including 0 for 6 from 3-point range. He also missed both his free throw attempts.

UP NEXT

Bulls: Visit the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, the third stop on a six-game road trip.

Rockets: Host the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, the first of six straight games against teams with losing records.

NBA Championship odds: Lakers, Bucks favorites as NBA plans restart

NBA Championship odds
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It’s all about LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo when it comes to NBA Championship odds.

At least for the gambling public. With the return of the NBA set for July in a 22-team format, the NBA futures odds to win the title have gone up at sportsbooks. Not surprisingly, LeBron and the Lakers, and Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, are the betting favorites. Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are close behind, with a considerable drop off after that.

Here are the current odds (with money won on a $100 bet):

TEAM CAESARS FAN DUAL
Los Angeles Lakers +200 +270
Milwaukee Bucks +275 +240
Los Angeles Clippers +325 +340
Houston Rockets +1500 +1200
Boston Celtics +1500 +2000
Toronto Raptors +1700 +2400
Denver Nuggets +2200 +2500
Miami Heat +4000 +2700
Philadelphia 76ers +2500 +2700
Utah Jazz +6000 +2900
Dallas Mavericks +3500 +3600
Brooklyn Nets +6000 +6000
Indiana Pacers +12500 +10000
Oklahoma City Thunder +6000 +10000
New Orleans Pelicans N/A +12000
Memphis Grizzlies +50000 +21000
Portland Trail Blazers +7500 +21000
San Antonio Spurs +100000 +21000
Orlando Magic +75000 +25000
Phoenix Suns +50000 +25000
Sacramento Kings +200000 +25000
Washington Wizards +100000 +25000

A few quick thoughts on these NBA Championship odds:

• Brooklyn is only at 60/1 odds because of Kevin Durant‘s possible return to the court — except that’s not happening. Even if he could, Kyrie Irving is not recovered from his March surgery yet, and no way KD is coming back without Irving.

• Along those same lines, John Wall is not returning for the Wizards this season.

• The best bet on the board? I would say the Clippers.

• If I had to bet who will end up with the eighth seed in the West, I would take Portland. New Orleans and Memphis both have a legitimate shot, but Portland gets Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins both back, and that was a 50+ win team with those two the season before.

• I’m basing my thoughts on what happened before March 11, and all of that feels somewhat irrelevant heading into this unprecedented situation.

PBT Podcast: The NBA is back! Breaking down the restart format.

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The NBA is back!

Or will be in July, at least, when 22 teams report to Orlando to play in a format that will see eight “seeding” games followed by potential play-in games for the eighth seed. After that, it’s a regular playoffs — no 1-16 seed but still East and West — with seven-game series each round.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman from NBC Sports, along with our friend Keith Smith — who lives in Orlando near the Disney property and has been all over this story from the start — break down the format and whether this is a format that provides enough safety to the players and staffs in Orlando.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.