James Harden’s 44-point triple-double hands 76ers fourth straight loss

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HOUSTON — James Harden had triple-double with 44 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 118-108 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

On a “Flashback Friday” night in which the Rockets wore their retro ketchup-and-mustard uniforms from their back-to-back NBA title days in the mid-90s, Harden sported a retro look of his own, with a white headband and cornrows.

With Philadelphia threatening late, Harden knocked down a deep step-back 3-pointer over Josh Richardson with 1:17 left in the game that put Houston up 10. On the next possession, he found Clint Capela with an alley-oop for a thunderous dunk.

Capela was a point shy of his career high in scoring, finishing with a season-best 30 points and 14 rebounds.

The 76ers have lost four straight, their longest skid since dropping five in a row in Dec. 2017.

Ben Simmons led Philadelphia with 29 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks, which matched a career-high. Tobias Harris scored 24 points.

After missing Philadelphia’s 115-97 loss with a sore left knee on Tuesday, Joel Embiid added 20 points and 12 rebounds.

The Rockets improved to 13-4 at home this season and have won their last four games at the Toyota Center.

The 76ers led 27-20 after the first quarter, dominating the paint and keeping Houston’s shooters in check. With less than five seconds remaining in the quarter, Harden was fouled by Trey Burke in the process of making a deep 3-pointer, but the shot was called off, infuriating Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who argued with officials during the break.

Early in the second quarter, Russell Westbrook received a technical foul for arguing a foul call against him after tangling with Embiid for a rebound.

Houston’s shooting improved after the first quarter, and the Rockets led 60-53 at halftime.

Westbrook had a rough stretch in the third quarter during which he missed an open, two-handed dunk in transition and immediately followed the play with a missed layup. Westbrook finished the game shooting 9 of 22 from the field with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Houston led 96-84 entering the fourth quarter.

The Rockets have a lengthy four-day break before visiting Atlanta on Wednesday night, the start of a stretch when they will play five games in seven days.

Marcus Smart announces he recovered, cleared of coronavirus

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Marcus Smart stepped forward and self-identified as having tested positive for the coronavirus. He wasn’t showing any symptoms and went into self-quarantine, and last we heard was doing well.

Sunday, Smart said that two days ago he was cleared and has fully recovered from the virus.

Most importantly, this is excellent news for Smart and his friends and family (and, by extension, the Celtics). His health is the most important thing in this story.

The NBA has asked recovered players to donate plasma because scientists are hoping to use the blood — which has developed immunities — to help create a vaccine or medicine to slow COVID-19. It’s optional, but the league is encouraging players to help.

There have been 10 players and five NBA off-court staff — including Knicks owner James Dolan — who have tested positive for the disease. Fortunately, none of them have shown any advanced symptoms that required hospitalization.

Colorado junior forward Tyler Bey declares for NBA Draft

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University of Colorado forward Tyler Bey has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The junior averaged 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for the Buffaloes. Bey shot 53% from the field overall and 74.3% at the free throw line.

Bey also extended his range a bit in his third year at Colorado. He knocked down 13-of-31 three-pointers (41.9%) on the season. At just six-foot-seven, he’ll need to be able to score from behind the arc to find a place in the NBA.

Most draft analysts have Bey pegged as an early second-round pick. Some thought he could play his way into the back-end of the first-round with strong pre-draft workouts. With the pre-draft process up in the air, NBA front offices may have to make their decisions based on what they’ve already seen in person and on tape.

Stephon Marbury has arrangement to procure 10 million medical masks for New York

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Former NBA player Stephon Marbury told The New York Post that he’s arranged a deal to deliver 10 million N95 medical masks to New York. These masks are much-needed among healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marbury is having the masks produced at cost in China, where he played the last seven years of his career.

Although Marbury currently lives in Beijing, China, he said “At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn. This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

While growing up, Marbury starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and on New York City’s famed playgrounds. After one year at Georgia Tech, Marbury left for the NBA. The high-scoring guard played for five teams during his 13-year NBA career, including his hometown New York Knicks.

After sitting out for two seasons, Marbury signed to play for the Beijing Ducks in 2011. The move was initially seen as a way for Marbury to prove he could still play at an NBA level. Instead, Beijing became home-away-from home for the New Yorker.

Marbury averaged 21.6 points per game in 271 contests spread over seven seasons with the Ducks.

Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung told ESPN Jonathan Givony that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

McClung first came to national prominence when his high school highlights blew up on YouTube:

In his second season at Georgetown, McClung averaged 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. A foot injury in late-January kept McClung out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned for one game in late-February, but played just eight minutes off the Hoyas’ bench.

The six-foot-two guard is known for his deep shooting range and his highlight dunks. McClung’s shot is inconsistent however, as he shot under 40% in each of his first two seasons at Georgetown. McClung’s defense also needs work.

McClung projects to be a point guard in the NBA, due to his size. To make it as a lead guard, he’ll need to work on his ballhandling and playmaking. With those question marks, McClung is seen as a stretch to be drafted in the second round.

McClung stated he’s signing with an NBA/NCAA approved agent. That will allow him to keep his college eligibility as he goes through the pre-draft process.