February 22, 2018

NBA Story
By Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: November 8, 2015 01:24:41 AM

Rockets win the Harden way

LOS ANGELES -- For the second night in a row, guard James Harden was practically unstoppable in another victory by the Houston Rockets.
Harden scored a season-best 46 points to spark the Rockets to a 109-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night at the Staples Center.
Center Dwight Howard finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds for the Rockets (4-3), who posted their fourth consecutive win. Forward Marcus Thornton chipped in 16 points.
The Clippers couldn’t keep Harden out of the lane. When he wasn't beating them to the punch for layups and drives, Harden knocked down 3-pointers and jumpers.
"Our spacing was unbelievable tonight," said Harden, who made 14 of 26 shots from the floor, including 5 of 10 from behind the 3-point line, and 13 of 14 free throws. "We spaced the floor really well. We forced their guards and bigs to help. I was just being aggressive."
Forward Blake Griffin had 35 points, 11 rebounds and five assists to lead Los Angeles (4-2), which lost its second straight game and played without point guard Chris Paul (sore right groin). Guard J.J. Redick added 19 points for the Clippers.
Harden topped 40 points for the second consecutive game. Harden scored 43 points and had 13 assists in Houston's 116-110 win over the Kings in Sacramento on Friday night. He picked up where he left off against the Clippers, scoring 18 points in the first quarter.
“(Harden) had 46 points, so clearly we didn't do our job tonight," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "That is on me more than (the players) the way I look at it. We wanted to single cover for most of the game and send them difference places. He just caught fire early and I know I should have adjusted."
Houston played without guard Patrick Beverley (concussion), forward Terrence Jones (right eyelid laceration) and forward-center Donatas Motiejunas (lower back pain).
It was the first meeting between the clubs since the Rockets upended the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals last season by rallying from a 3-1 deficit to prevail in seven games.
Despite the Rockets giving up at least 105 points in all seven games this season, Harden said defense allowed them to prevail.
"These last couple of games we've been relying on our defense," said Harden, who committed seven turnovers. "That's what we have to hang our hats on."
The Rockets snagged their biggest lead, a 93-82 cushion, after a Harden 3-pointer less than four minutes into the fourtth quarter.
The Clippers pulled to within 105-102 on a layup by Redick and two free throws by Griffin with 1:04 remaining. After an offensive foul by Harden with 49.4 seconds left, forward Paul Pierce nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to knot the score at 105 with 40.9 seconds.
However, Harden converted two foul shots with 32.6 seconds for a two-point Houston advantage. That turned out to be the difference.
"We needed to make things tougher for (Harden)," said Griffin, who connected on 14 of 22 shots from the field.
Griffin missed a shot in the lane and a tip with 16.9 seconds left. After the tip, it appeared Howard knocked the ball out of the cylinder, but the officials, despite protests from Rivers and his players, failed to call goaltending.
Two free throws by guard Ty Lawson with 13.1 seconds left sealed it for Houston.
"It was a great win," said Howard, who was limited to 29 minutes because of foul trouble. "We were playing against a really good team in the Clippers, who play small ball. We just have to continue to play this type of basketball by playing together, trusting each other and making plays for each other."
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan scored 11 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked three shots.
"I think we had an opportunity to win the game a couple of times tonight," Jordan said. "We didn't have a sense of urgency defensively."
NOTES: Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he definitely wanted F Josh Smith to return to his club. Smith played 55 games with the Rockets last season after being waived by the Detroit Pistons before signing a one-year deal with the Clippers during the offseason. "I like Josh; I miss him," McHale said. "I had a real good comfort level with him. Good kid." ... Los Angeles G Austin Rivers started in place of Paul. Rivers finished with 10 points and one assist in 31 minutes. ... The Rockets are off for three days before hosting the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. ... The Memphis Grizzlies visit the Clippers on Monday

All Times Eastern