Danuel House

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James Harden, Rockets rout Jazz 122-90 in Game 1

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HOUSTON — James Harden had 29 points and 10 assists to help the Houston Rockets rout the Utah Jazz 122-90 on Sunday night in Game 1 of a best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

The Rockets had a double-digit lead for most of the game, but the Jazz got within five points midway through the third quarter before Houston used a big run to pull away and sail to the victory.

It’s the second consecutive year these teams have met in the postseason after the Rockets eliminated Utah in five games in the second round last season.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Houston.

Houston was up by 15 in the fourth quarter before Harden, who had eight rebounds, scored six points in a 9-2 run that stretched the lead to 108-86 with four minutes left and both teams cleared their benches about a minute after that.

Houston’s starting lineup helped carry the scoring load on Sunday night, with each starter scoring at least 10 points. Eric Gordon had 17, Clint Capela scored 16, Chris Paul added 14 and P.J. Tucker had 11.

Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jazz after not scoring more than 15 points in a game in the playoff series against the Rockets last season. Donovan Mitchell had 19 points, but did not have an assist as the Jazz went long stretches without scoring.

Ricky Rubio started after missing four of the last five games of the regular season with a quadriceps injury. Rubio, who finished with 15 points, didn’t play against Houston in the playoffs last season after injuring his hamstring in a first-round series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Houston had a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter and an 8-0 spurt, with two 3-pointers from Danuel House, extended it to 95-75 with nine minutes remaining.

The Rockets led by 17 when Harden re-entered the game about a minute later. Soon after he returned he found House behind the 3-point line in the corner and drove to the basket and finished with a one-handed slam.

The Rockets were up by 15 at halftime, but Utah opened the second half with a 10-3 run, with six points from Gobert, to cut it to 62-54 with nine minutes left in the third.

The Jazz got within five with a shot from Mitchell later in the third, before the Rockets scored next 10 points, with a 3 from Gordon and a three-point play from Harden, to make it 76-61 with about four minutes left in the quarter.

Mitchell ended a Utah scoring drought of about 4 1/2 minutes after that with a 3-pointer, but Harden hit a 3 seconds later to leave the Rockets up 79-64.

Utah cut into the lead a bit after that and trailed 83-71 after three.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Derrick Favors had 13 points. … Utah went 7 for 27 on 3s. … The Jazz had 18 turnovers. … Jae Crowder scored nine points off the bench.

Rockets: Coach Mike D’Antoni was back on the sideline after missing Houston’s last three regular-season games with an intestinal virus. … Hall of Famer and former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon watched the game from a courtside seat. … Houston made 15 3-pointers, led by four from Harden.

UP NEXT

After Game 2 on Wednesday the series moves to Utah for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on April 22.

Five teams that can knock off Golden State Warriors

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There’s going to be a parade this June in Oakland. It’s all but set, city officials quietly have started the planning already. The Golden State Warriors are going to win the NBA title and there is nothing anyone can do about it…

Or can they?

The Warriors are the favorites to with the NBA title. Again. As they should be. However, there are teams that can challenge the Warriors, this is not going to be a cake walk. And unlike the past couple of years, the Warriors biggest challenge will be in the Finals.

Here are the five teams that have a shot at beating the Warriors this season.

Raptors small icon1) The Toronto Raptors.

Don’t get stuck in the “the Raptors are not a playoff team” past, this is by design a very different Toronto roster heading into the playoffs. And it’s a team that matches up well with what Golden State — they are long and switchable on defense, they know how to get buckets, and they now have a clear closer.

Nobody is going to stop Kevin Durant, but Kawhi Leonard can slow him, make KD work, and be left on an island against him (relatively) allowing other defenders to stay home with their guys. While I don’t put much stock in regular season games as postseason predictors, way back in November Leonard and Durant had a back-and-forth showdown that was one of the more entertaining games of the year.

Danny Green is a strong defender who can be put on the hotter of Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry, then Kyle Lowry can do a solid job on the other. Pascal Siakam can get Draymond Green and help off him while daring Green to shoot jumpers, and Siakam can be the five when the Warriors go small with Green at center. Marc Gasol will likely start on DeMarcus Cousins, but Serge Ibaka can get time, too. Then the Rockets bring Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet as needed.

Toronto’s fifth-ranked offense this season is still going to score points against the Warriors. They can score inside and out. And when the game is on the line Leonard will get the chance to show why he was once Finals MVP.

The Warriors would and should still be favorites in this potential Finals matchup, but the Raptors are poised to make it work.

Bucks small icon2) The Milwaukee Bucks.

A team needs long, switchable defenders and an elite offense to beat the Warriors. The Bucks had the fourth best offense in the NBA this past season, led by MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo. So check that box. As for long, switchable defenders, the Bucks are built around the Greek Freak, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and the physical at the point Eric Bledsoe. Check.

The Bucks are one of the few teams that can take and make threes at the pace of the Warriors and they may be willing to play that way. If Warriors defenders have to slide out to arc to stop shooters — especially Cousins chasing Brook Lopez out of the paint — it opens up the lane for Antetokounmpo’s drives, and nobody is stopping those.

What the Bucks need is Brogdon back and healthy to put on Klay Thompson. Also, Milwaukee would need to find a way to keep playing their base defense, which has Lopez dropping off picks to clog the paint, without giving up too many threes to the Warriors. Finally, when the Warriors go small the Bucks can go with Antetokounmpo at center lineups.

It would be a big step for the Bucks to challenge the Warriors, but on paper they have the tools.

Rockets small icon3) The Houston Rockets.

This is the same team that was ahead at halftime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on their home court less than a year ago….

Well, they’re not the same team exactly. But they are playing closer to that level than they have all season — Chris Paul looks more like his old self, Clint Capela looks in shape, Danuel House Jr. and PJ Tucker have found a groove as role players, and since the All-Star break the Rockets have the second-best defense in the land and the best net rating (+10.7).

The Rockets still have James Harden and nobody — on the Warriors or on the planet — can stop him. If he has other guys knocking down some shots around him and the Rockets keep defending, they are the only team in the West with a chance. The Rockets do not have Trevor Ariza or the same depth that made them a genuine threat to the Warriors, a Rockets team that might have a ring if CP3 had stayed healthy. But the Rockets are still the second best team in the West and the only team with a shot at the Warriors.

If the Rockets and Warriors meet it will be in the second round — and that could be good for Houston. What has slowed the Rockets in recent seasons was Harden just running out of gas from the load he has to carry, or Paul getting injured. Does meeting in the second round make it less likely either of those things happen, meaning the Rockets have a better chance? Maybe. The Rockets will have to fight their way past a very good Jazz team to find out.

Celtics small icon 4) The Boston Celtics.

The preseason favorites in the East have shown flashes this year where you can’t help but think “that’s a contender, they can push the Warriors.” Boston just hasn’t been able to sustain it.

The matchup on paper is interesting. Kyrie Irving has battled Stephen Curry to a standstill in the Finals before. Al Horford can be effective against Golden State whether Cousins is in the paint (Horford is a better post defender than people think, and on offense he could pull Cousins out to the three-point line to defend his shot) or if the Warriors go small and Green is at the five. Horford blows up the mismatches Golden State banks on.

The Celtics would need Marcus Smart back and healthy. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier all need to play as well as they did last playoffs. A lot of things need to go right and the Celtics have not been able to sustain that this year.

But Boston has the pieces to be a potential threat to Golden State.

Sixers small icon 5) The Philadelphia 76ers.

Philly being on this list comes down to one thing: They have the second best starting five in the league. The one starting five that can challenge the Warriors best lineups.

Joel Embiid (who can outplay Cousins, but didn’t play well against the Warriors this season), Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and sharpshooting J.J. Redick have a ton of potential. When on the court together, the unit has been dominant on both ends.

The problem is they haven’t been on the court together that much and there are chemistry questions. Plus, behind this five there is little depth.

Philadelphia has a long way to go to really be a threat to the Warriors, but if they make it out of the East they may be that team by June.

Watch James Harden drop 41 points, 11 assists in win over Suns

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had 41 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds, and the Houston Rockets outlasted the Phoenix Suns to get a 108-102 win Friday night.

The Rockets had trouble putting away the Suns, who have won just 16 games this season, and trailed for much of the night as they struggled from long-range, making just 11 of 40 3-pointers.

It’s Houston’s franchise-record 10th straight win over the Suns, and the Rockets have won 10 of their last 11 games overall.

They were up by 2 after two free throws by Harden with about four minutes to go. He hit his head on the court after being knocked down on a hard foul by Deandre Ayton about 90 seconds after that, but got up and made two more free throws.

Mikal Bridges missed a 3 for the Suns and Harden added a jumper on the other end to make it 102-96 with about two minutes remaining.

But Devin Booker made the next four points to get Phoenix within two points at 102-100 about a minute later.

Danuel House padded the lead with a 3-pointer after that, but Booker made a jump shot to cut it to 105-102.

A turnover by Harden gave the Suns the ball back. But Josh Jackson missed two free throws with 24.6 seconds left and Harden made one of two free throws with 11.1 seconds remaining to make it 106-102.

Booker missed a 3 and Harden made two more free throws to secure the victory.

Booker had 29 points for the Suns, who lost their second in a row.

Eric Gordon added 19 points and House had 18 for the Rockets on a night Chris Paul sat out to rest.

The Suns led by 2 to start the fourth and had a 3-point lead with about nine minutes left when Gordon made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put Houston up 92-89. Gordon had missed six of seven 3-point attempts before making those shots.

Phoenix made the next four points, with a 3 from Josh Jackson, to regain the lead before a 3 by Harden put Houston up 95-93 midway through the quarter.

The game was tied at 71 with about five minutes left in the third before Houston used a 5-2 run, capped by a 3 from Harden, to take a 76-73 lead. But Phoenix used a 5-2 spurt after that, highlighted by a soaring dunk from Richaun Holmes, to tie it back up a couple of minutes later.

A 7-2 run by the Suns later in the third put them on top 85-82. Kelly Oubre Jr. had a 3-pointer in that stretch and Holmes scored the other four points.

Kenneth Faried made one of two free throws after that cut the lead to 2 entering the fourth quarter.

 

Warriors, without Kevin Durant, snap Rockets’ nine-game win streak

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HOUSTON (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 30 points, DeMarcus Cousins had a season-high 27 and the Golden State Warriors snapped Houston’s nine-game winning streak Wednesday night with a 106-104 victory over the Rockets.

Playing without injured star Kevin Durant, the Warriors bounced back after a loss to Phoenix on Sunday and avoided being swept by Houston after the Rockets won the first three meetings this season.

Golden State, which had lost six of 10 overall, is 4 1/2 games ahead of Houston atop the Western Conference standings. The Rockets are tied with Oklahoma City for third place behind Denver.

After trailing by 14 in the fourth quarter, a three-point play by Chris Paul got Houston within one with 10.8 seconds left. Stephen Curry made two free throws with eight seconds remaining to make it 106-103, and James Harden hit one of two from the line at the other end with 6.4 seconds to go. The miss on the second one bounced high off the rim and was rebounded by Andre Iguodala, securing Golden State’s victory.

Harden had 29 points and 10 assists for the Rockets, but shot just 2 of 12 on 3-pointers. Paul finished with 24 points.

Curry added 24 points for Golden State. Durant missed the game with a sprained right ankle.

The Warriors were up by 13 after a reverse layup by Cousins with about 5 1/2 minutes left before Houston used a 7-2 run, with a 3-pointer from Eric Gordon, to get to 102-94.

Thompson added a basket for the Warriors before the Rockets used a 6-0 spurt to cut the lead to 104-100 with 47.7 seconds left.

Thompson made five 3s to give him 203 this season. He joined Curry as the only players in NBA history to have seven straight seasons with 200 3-pointers.

Golden State had a seven-point lead to start the fourth and scored the first seven points of the period, highlighted by a 3 from Thompson, to push the lead to 92-78.

The Warriors were up by 12 in the first half but Houston cut it to 54-52 by halftime. A 3-pointer by Gordon gave the Rockets their first lead early in the third quarter and one by P.J. Tucker seconds later made it 60-56.

The game was tied later in the quarter after a three-point play by Paul before the Warriors used a 9-2 surge to take a 76-69 lead with about five minutes left in the third. Curry had five points in that stretch.

Golden State was up by nine soon after that, before the Rockets got two 3-pointers from Gerald Green to power an 8-2 run that cut the lead to 81-78 with two minutes left in the quarter.

But the Warriors scored the last four points of the period to extend the lead to 85-78 entering the fourth.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry needs six points to become the fifth player in franchise history to reach 16,000 points. He made just three 3-pointers, ending a streak of 12 straight games with at least four – which was second in NBA history behind a 13-game streak by Harden this season. … Cousins added eight rebounds and a season-best seven assists.

Rockets: Gordon finished with 17 points. … Houston converted the two-way contract of Danuel House into a standard NBA contract. … Clint Capela had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Visit Oklahoma City on Saturday night as they continue a four-game road trip.

Rockets: Host the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Rockets convert Danuel House’s two-way deal to standard contract

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When Danuel House ran out of NBA days on his two-way contract in January, the Rockets had three options:

  • Keep House on a two-way contract. He wouldn’t have been able to play for Houston, only its minor-league affiliate, until the minor-league season ended. He wouldn’t have been eligible for the NBA playoffs. In the offseason, the Rockets could make him a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of a two-way contract ($50,000 guaranteed).
  • Convert House’s two-way deal to a standard contract. He would’ve been eligible for all Houston’s remaining regular-season and playoff games. In the offseason, the Rockets could make him a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of a one-year, guaranteed NBA contract with a salary $200,000 above the minimum.
  • Sign House to a new standard contract. That would have required House agreeing to terms. The starting salary could have been any amount up to the remainder of Houston’s mid-level exception. House’s agent, Raymond Brothers, said the Rockets offered a three-year guaranteed minimum contract. House would’ve been eligible for all Houston’s remaining regular-season and playoff games.

House rejected the Rockets’ three-year offer (third option). So, they went with the first option. At any point, the sides could have agreed to the third option.

Now, after leaving House on its minor-league affiliate a couple months, Houston is taking the second option.

Rockets release:

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced today that the team has converted the two-way contract of forward Danuel House Jr. into a standard NBA contract.

The Rockets have won nine straight and are reclaiming their place as a top challenger to the Warriors. But they could use another wing.

House averaged nine points on 39% 3-point shooting in 25 games (12 starts) with Houston earlier this season. His athleticism remains intact. If he keep shooting so well, he’ll boost the Rockets – and his next contract.

The 25-year-old House is betting on himself. A strong performance the rest of this season will set him up well for free agency. Productive wings are scarce. House could’ve taken the guaranteed three-year minimum deal, but this is an opportunity to earn more.

The best indicator of House’s value: The Rockets could’ve left him on their minor-league affiliate (first option). That would have been cheaper and offered more team control. But they wanted him on the court now and in the playoffs. So, they – not House – blinked in their game of chicken and took the second option.