Watch Austin Rivers score 36, lead Clippers past Rockets 128-118

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HOUSTON (AP) — Austin Rivers scored a career-high 36 points with six 3-pointers, and the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers withstood James Harden‘s second straight 51-point performance to beat the Houston Rockets 128-118 on Friday night.

The Rockets, who had a 14-game winning streak snapped by the Lakers on Wednesday, lost consecutive games for just the second time this season and the first since Oct. 28 and 30.

Rivers made a 3-pointer with just under three minutes to play that pushed the lead to 117-111. Ryan Anderson made two free throws for Houston before C.J. Williams added a layup for the Clippers.

Former Rocket Lou Williams, who had 32 points off the bench, then made his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter after that to make it 122-113 before a turnover by Harden spurred coach Mike D’Antoni to call a timeout.

Rivers made another 3-pointer after the timeout and Harden made a layup before fouling out a few seconds later. He received a technical for arguing about the call and was ejected from the game.

It was Harden’s third 50-point game this season.

This game lacked much of the intrigue it could have had with Chris Paul sitting out in the first meeting with his former team because of a groin injury. The nine-time All-Star spent the last six seasons with the Clippers before a blockbuster trade brought him to the Rockets this summer. Patrick Beverley, who was the highest-profile Rocket involved in the trade, also missed the game while recovering from knee surgery.

The Rockets were without two starters, with center Clint Capela missing a second straight game because of a bruised left heel. The Clippers have been dealing with injuries all season after losing Beverley for the season in November and playing without All-Star Blake Griffin for the last 12 games because of a knee injury.

The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, were up by nine after a dunk by Sam Dekker with about seven minutes remaining. Harden led Houston with five points during a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 108-106 with about 4 1/2 minutes left.

Los Angeles led by two entering the fourth quarter, and Lou Williams made three 3-pointers in just over a minute to power a 9-2 run that 101-93 with about eight minutes left.

Houston led by 12 early in the third quarter before the Clippers used a 10-2 run, with the last five points from Rivers, to cut the lead to 71-67 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.

Eric Gordon made a 3-pointer after that before Los Angeles made the next seven points. Rivers led the team in that span, too, scoring the last five points to tie it at 74 with about five minutes left in the third.

Houston had the next six points before the Clippers used a 10-2 spurt, capped by consecutive 3s from Williams to take their first lead of the game, 84-82.

Harden made all of his free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer to put Houston back out front, but C.J. Williams added a 3 for the Clippers at the buzzer to leave them up 87-85 entering the fourth quarter.

Houston led 65-52 at halftime after Harden made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Another LeBron James mural vandalized in Los Angeles

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Most of Los Angeles — and the vast majority of Lakers fans — are fired up that LeBron James is coming to Los Angeles. They see a return to glory for the franchise (well, once they get the rest of the roster right… sorry Lance Stephenson).

However, there is a segment — particularly the die-hard Kobe fans — who are having trouble assimilating to the new reality.

So when an artist did a LeBron James mural near Venice in Los Angeles recently — a really well-done tribute — it was quickly vandalized. Then eventually covered up.

This week another artist did another impressive LeBron/Lakers mural — this one with LeBron looking up at the Lakers’ legends — and once again, it was vandalized.

I’m not shocked by any of this, but it is depressing. If you’re vandalizing art, you are a cowardly buffoon.

There’s no way to really know the motivation behind the second attack, although the smart money is on it being the same as the first one — a few people think they are protecting the Lakers’ brand by not welcoming the best player on the planet to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years. It’s incredibly flawed logic, but frankly flawed logic has become trendy in recent years, it can get you elected to all kinds of offices.

If you can’t embrace LeBron joining the team, I’m not sure how you could call yourself a Lakers fan. But to take that another step and deface a mural is another level of idiocy.

AP Source: Thunder trading Dakari Johnson to Orlando

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder are trading reserve center Dakari Johnson to the Orlando Magic.

A person with knowledge of the details confirmed the move to The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Yahoo Sports, which first reported the deal, said Oklahoma City will get guard Rodney Purvis in the deal. Purvis averaged 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16 appearances for the Magic last season. The Orlando Sentinel said the Thunder also sent cash to the Magic.

Johnson played 31 games last season for the Thunder with six starts. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. The 7-footer averaged 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 10 games for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, last season.

Center Alex Len reportedly reaches contract deal with Atlanta

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Five years ago, the Phoenix Suns had just drafted Alex Len at No. 5 overall and thought he would be the big man in the middle the team would build around. It didn’t work out that way, he never averaged double figures in either scoring or rebounding for a season. While Len has said he thought he was not used correctly, and there has been plenty of change and inconsistency in Phoenix, he never grabbed hold of the top job, either.

When the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 last June, there was no chance they were bringing back Len next season. The unrestricted free agent is headed to Atlanta instead, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent center Alex Len has agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Len received interest from several teams in recent days before finalizing an agreement with the Hawks on Saturday.

Len is not going to space the floor, 73 percent of his shots came at the rim last season, but he’s become an efficient finisher there. He is good as a roll man, will work off the ball, and can post guys up on offense. He’s also strong on the offensive glass and gets points via putbacks. His game is not that of a modern NBA center, but he’s become efficient at what he does.

Len is going to have to earn his minutes in the ATL, rebuilding team or not there is some quality along the front line. John Collins, who made the All-Rookie team last season and was one of the standouts of Summer League, will start up front, possibly at the four with Dewayne Dedmon at the five. The just-drafted Omari Spellman showed potential at Summer League and could be the backup four, which means Len gets the backup center minutes.

Len is getting his new chance on a team that can give him some run, we’ll see if a change of scenery is what he needed.

Gordon Hayward posts new workout video, he is moving pretty well

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Player workout videos on Instagram are a lot like how your life (or, your parent’s life) appears on Facebook — everyone looks their best, is always having fun and doing something interesting, and the daily grime of life has been scrubbed away.

That said, Boston’s Gordon Hayward looks good — he seems to be moving very well — in this latest workout video he posted.

It’s a good sign to see Hayward moving like that in July, months before that reconstructed ankle needs to be put to the test on the NBA hardwood.

With Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Celtics start the season as the favorites in the East — but Toronto is a sudden, serious challenger if Kawhi Leonard is all the way back and healthy. Philadelphia is talented and in that mix as well if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can take strides forward with their game.

The top of the East is going to be very interesting next season.