Gerald Green

Associated Press

James Harden struggles, Rockets still beat Jazz 104-101 for 3-0 series lead

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SALT LAKE CITY — James Harden never worried.

In fact, he didn’t know he had missed his first 15 shots.

Through it all, he never changed the attacking style that made him the NBA’s leading scorer.

Harden overcame a poor shooting performance and scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Houston Rockets to a 104-101 win Saturday over the Utah Jazz for a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

“Keep shooting. Keep being aggressive,” Harden said of his only thoughts. “My job is to go out there and produce. Be aggressive and in attack mode. Nothing changes.”

Not much has worked against Harden for the Jazz, and even when they thought they had him trapped, they weren’t able to control The Beard for a full game.

“You’re going to give something up. The best thing you can do with him is just try to make it hard on him. Even when you do that, there’s times where he’s going to make plays,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.

The Jazz didn’t take it easy on Harden, and took every opportunity to knock him down, even when it sent him to the line. For one of the rare times this season, Harden passed up some shots. But he did take them – and make them – when they counted most.

Though the victory was hardly a thing of beauty, Houston coach Mike D’Antoni was grateful for the way it went down.

“Sooner or later we have to win games on defense. We did this time,” D’Antoni said of his team which is known for Harden’s lethal 3-point attack but has drastically improved on the defensive end since mid-season.

Harden made a 3-pointer and added two free throws with 42.4 seconds left to give the Rockets a 101-97 lead. After Donovan Mitchell made two free throws, Harden missed another 3-point attempt, but P.J. Tucker, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, grabbed the rebound, was fouled, making one of two free throws.

Chris Paul said: “You trust (Tucker) to make those plays. … He’s going to do anything and everything to help the team win.”

Mitchell had a wide-open look at a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, but like so many of his shots in the hard-fought contest, it was off the mark.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven Western Conference series is Monday night in Utah.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well and we still won. That just gives us more confidence,” said Harden, who was 3-for-20 shooting with 10 assists. He was 14 for 16 from the line.

Paul scored 18 points and Clint Capela had 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, who shot 38.4 percent from the field and 67.6 percent from the line.

Mitchell scored 34 points, but struggled shooting, too, making just 9 of his 27 attempts. Derrick Favors had 13 for the Jazz.

Royce O'Neale, who played tenacious defense on Harden, made a 3-pointer for Utah’s last lead at 89-88. In fact, the Jazz led most of the game, but never by more than eight.

The Rockets made their move in the fourth quarter.

Gerald Green made back-to-back 3-pointers and Harden added a pair of free throws with 8:33 remaining put the Rockets up 84-80.

After two slow starts in Houston, the Jazz came out energized with a deafening crowd hanging on every basket. Utah led 11-3 and Harden picked up two fouls in the first 94 seconds, but stayed on the court. He couldn’t find his rhythm until the stretch run.

The Rockets have made no secret they are keying on Mitchell and Ingles to take away their playmaking and make other Utah players beat them. So far, no one else has made them pay.

Mitchell vowed to be more aggressive and apologized for being a “no show” early in the series. He re-introduced himself to the series in an exuberant show of shot-making and open emotion after big plays. But it didn’t last.

“I just started missing shots,” Mitchell said. “I can’t miss 16 shots (after the first quarter). That’s my role and I can’t miss makeable shots.”

Prior to Saturday’s big game, Mitchell was shooting 32.6% and had more turnovers (nine) than assists (six). After his hot start, Mitchell missed 11 straight field goal attempts but never stopped attacking.

Harden was missing 3-pointers and floaters, including two that were rejected by Rudy Gobert early in the game, and didn’t convert one until his emphatic fast-break dunk with 7:34 to play. But then he made a step-back 3-pointer to give Houston its largest lead at 89-83.

The leading MVP candidate did get to the line – something the Jazz have tried desperately to avoid.

Gobert had 10 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots.

 

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.

Watch James Harden score 31 to help Rockets rout slumping 76ers 107-91

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets are finally healthy and it has them on a roll.

James Harden had 31 points and 10 rebounds and the Rockets extended their winning streak to a season-high seven games with a 107-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

While Harden has missed just four games this season, fellow stars Chris Paul and Clint Capela have missed 15 and 19 games, respectively, with injuries.

“I think it’s very obvious with Clint, Chris and James playing together and they’re all healthy and in rhythm we’re pretty hard to beat,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Houston improved to 21-9 this season in games when all three play after going 42-3 in such games last season.

“Our pace and energy has been really good and it always helps to be healthy,” Paul said.

The Rockets had a big lead for most of the night after a 37-point first quarter and were up by 22 entering the fourth. Philadelphia had trouble containing Capela with Joel Embiid out for the eighth straight game with a sore left knee, and Houston’s big man had 18 points and nine rebounds.

“They did an excellent job at defending us,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “I just think that first period sort of set the table and we found it difficult to respond after that.”

The victory came after Philadelphia won the first meeting this season 121-93 behind 32 points from Embiid.

Gerald Green and Iman Shumpert each made a 3-pointer to power a 6-2 run in the fourth quarter and extend the lead to 96-72 with nine minutes left. Philadelphia scored the next five points before Harden wowed the crowd with a between-the-legs bounce pass to Capela, but he was fouled on the shot and missed both free throws.

Houston led by 16 with about five minutes left when Harden had a dunk to make it 99-81 and give him at least 30 points in his NBA-leading 30th game this season. Coach Mike D’Antoni cleared the bench soon after that with the game in hand.

Tobias Harris had 22 points for the 76ers, who dropped their second straight. Ben Simmons played despite dealing with stomach flu and added 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Philadelphia shot just 3 of 26 on 3-pointers with JJ Redick going 1 for 9 and Mike Scott missing all of his five attempts.

The 76ers opened the third quarter with a 9-6 run to cut the lead to 12 points, but Houston scored the next six points with 3s from Harden and Eric Gordon to push it to 71-53 with about six minutes left in the quarter.

Harden left briefly in the second quarter after crashing to the court after a collision with Simmons while attempting a shot. He remained on the court on his back writhing in pain for a couple of minutes before getting to his feet and going to the locker room. He appeared to have injured his right wrist and had it taped when he returned to the court.

It didn’t seem to be bothering him much after he returned to the game and he provided a highlight-reel play when he used a crossover to shake Jimmy Butler at the 3-point line and drove into the lane for a layup to leave Houston up 59-44 at halftime.

D’Antoni said that Harden was OK, but a team official said that he was getting a precautionary X-ray after the game and wasn’t available to reporters.

 

James Harden runs 30-point streak to 30 as Rockets beat Mavericks

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 31 points for his 30th straight 30-point game despite dealing with a shoulder injury, leading the Houston Rockets to a 120-104 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.

Harden, who had eight rebounds and seven assists, seemed to be a bit slowed early by the strained left shoulder that he injured on Saturday against Oklahoma City, making just one of his first seven shots. But he warmed up after that and finished 9 of 23, capped by his sixth 3-pointer with less than a minute left to put him over 30 and keep the streak going. Fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” after he sunk the step back over Dorian Finney-Smith.

He’s now just one game from tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest streak of 30-point games in NBA history. Chamberlain also holds the top 30-point game streak with 65 in a row.

Houston had a 14-point lead entering the fourth quarter and was up 106-90 when Harden entered the game for the first time in the period with about 6 1/2 minutes left. The Mavericks went on a 7-0 run after that, with a 3-pointer from Jalen Brunson, to get within 106-97 with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining.

Harden heated up after that, making two 3-pointers in a 9-3 run to extend the lead to 115-100 with about 2 minutes left and put the game out of reach.

Luka Doncic had 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Mavericks, who lost for the first time this season to Houston after winning the first two meetings.

Chris Paul added 17 points with 11 assists, and Gerald Green scored 19 points with five 3-pointers to help Houston to its fourth win in five games.

The Rockets were up by 14 at halftime and Harden scored seven points in the first few minutes of the third quarter to help push the lead to 76-58. Harden later dished to Green for a 3-pointer to make it 85-66.

The Mavericks scored the next eight points, capped by a 3 from Finney-Smith just before the shot clocked expired, to get within 85-74 with 2 minutes left in the third.

Green had a layup after that to end the scoring streak by Dallas and the Rockets had a 92-78 lead at the end of three.

 

Watch James Harden score 43; 26th game in a row with 30 or more

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — James Harden had 43 points for his 26th straight game with at least 30 points in the Houston Rockets’ 125-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

Harden’s 30-point streak is the third-longest in NBA history, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain’s runs of 65 and 31 games. Harden also had 12 rebounds, six steals, five assists, and four blocks. He was 12 of 22 from the field, making 4 of 12 3-pointers, and made all 15 of his free throws.

Gerald Green added 25 points, and Kenneth Faried had 16 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 5:07 remaining. Houston snapped a two-game losing streak, holding the Jazz to 36 percent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers.

Donovan Mitchell had 26 points and nine assists for Utah. Rudy Gobert added 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Harden fueled the bulk of a 17-4 run that put Houston up 60-48 with 30.1 seconds left in the first half, making three baskets and four free throws. He punctuated it by scoring on three consecutive possessions.