76ers

Best of NBA: Harden scores 42, rallies Rockets past Bulls in OT

Best of NBA: Harden scores 42, rallies Rockets past Bulls in OT

HOUSTON -- James Harden had 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists to rally the Houston Rockets past the Chicago Bulls 121-117 in overtime Friday night.

Harden hit a step-back jumper over Paul Zipser with 36.1 seconds remaining in the extra period and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Rockets a two-point lead they never relinquished.

After losing to Atlanta on Thursday night, the Rockets improved to 12-1 this season in the second of back-to-back games.

The Bulls played without star forward Jimmy Butler, who was nursing a bruised heel. Starting in his place, Michael Carter-Williams had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists before fouling out with two minutes remaining in overtime.

Harden hit a step-back jumper over Carter-Williams to tie the game at 108 with 27.3 seconds remaining in regulation (see full recap).

Thomas scores 38 as Celtics’ win 6th straight
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-107 on Friday night for their sixth consecutive victory.

Al Horford added 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Celtics. Thomas logged his 34th straight game with 20 or more points and is six shy of John Havlicek's franchise-record streak.

Jae Crowder had 18 points, Jaylen Brown added 12 and Terry Rozier scored 10 for Boston (32-18).

D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 20 points. Lou Williams scored 20, Larry Nance Jr. had 18 and Nick Young 17 as Los Angeles (17-36) lost for the fifth time in six games.

Boston and Los Angeles both began the night with 3,252 wins, tied for the most in NBA history. Before their loss, the Lakers held at least a share of the league's all-time victories mark since 2001 (see full recap).

Westbrook notches 25th triple-double in victory
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 19 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and had a triple-double to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Memphis Grizzlies 114-102 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 13 rebounds and 12 assists. It was his 25th triple-double this season and the 62nd of his career. His season total is the most in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 during the 1967-68 season.

Steven Adams had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Joffrey Lauvergne scored a season-high 16 points and Anthony Morrow added 15 points for the Thunder, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Marc Gasol scored 31 points, Mike Conley had 18 and Zach Randolph added 16 for the Grizzlies, who shot 48 percent overall but just 3 of 19 on 3-pointers (see full recap).

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

ap-cavaliers-lebron-james.jpg
AP Images

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

CLEVELAND -- There was none of the usual postgame chatter or music in the Cavaliers locker room.

The mood was somber and quiet, not the same place.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," LeBron James said. "But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely."

Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left and Cleveland came up with a defensive stop in the frantic final seconds after blowing a 23-point lead to beat the Orlando Magic 104-103 on Thursday night and snap a four-game losing streak.

After Thomas made his shots, Orlando's Elfrid Payton missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The three officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle and held a jump ball at midcourt.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon grabbed the toss and sank a 45-footer as the horn sounded and Cleveland's crowd shrieked in disbelief. But Gordon committed a jump-ball violation with the move and Cleveland only had to inbound the ball to come away with a victory following a crazy and exhausting final sequence that left everyone dazed.

"No, I don't," said Thomas when asked if he knew what happened. "It was a lot of back and forth. I'm just glad we just came out with the win" (see full recap).

Rockets cruise past Timberwolves in Harden’s return
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon scored 30 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 116-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

James Harden returned to the Rockets' lineup after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain and finished with 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting, and added seven assists, two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes. Houston went 4-3 in his absence.

Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Clint Capela added 20 points for the Rockets. Houston has won 15 of the past 17 meetings with Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak at home.

Gordon closed out a big third quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass from a step behind the half-court line. After hitting the shot under heavy pressure from Andrew Wiggins, Gordon gave a high-five to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who was sitting courtside near the shot.

Gordon's 3-pointer helped the Rockets finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 89-70 lead into the fourth with their largest advantage of the game. Gordon made 11 of 19 shots, including 7 of 13 from 3, and fell just short of his season-high 33 points against Utah on Dec. 18.

With Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza sitting out the first part of a two-game suspension for a postgame locker room incident on Monday night in Los Angeles, Luc Mbah a Moute started in Ariza's place, scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Along with Ariza, reserve guard Gerald Green was also serving the first of a two-game suspension for the altercation with the Clippers (see full recap).

Blazers top Pacers for 5th straight home win
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 26 points and eight assists, Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers won their fifth consecutive home game, beating the Indiana Pacers 100-86 on Thursday night.

C.J. McCollum added 16 points and Shabazz Napier 13 for Portland, which seems to have its homecourt mojo back, winning five straight after dropping six consecutive home games in early December. The Blazers also beat Indiana for the ninth consecutive time on their home floor.

Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison scored 23 points each for Indiana.

Portland took control late in the third quarter, when the Blazers held Indiana scoreless for more than five minutes. It was part of Portland's 21-2 run, during which Napier scored eight points to help erase a six-point deficit and give the Blazers an 89-76 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Indiana was without forward Myles Turner, the team's second-leading scorer this season. Turner has missed five consecutive games with a right elbow injury (see full recap).

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that it’s not going to be easy.”