Houston Rockets

Rockets make it look easy against in-state rival

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Rockets make it look easy against in-state rival

HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 16 of his 28 points in the third quarter to allow the Houston Rockets to build a huge lead and sail to an easy 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.

The NBA's leading scorer took a little while to get going a night after sitting out against Dallas with a sore left knee and had just 12 points at halftime.

Despite his slow start, the Rockets had a comfortable lead in the third and were still up by 13 after a basket by San Antonio's Dejounte Murray with about eight minutes left in the quarter. It was then that Harden took over, scoring the next eight points to start a 16-4 run that extended the lead to 82-57 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third and had coach Gregg Popovich calling for a timeout.

Harden had a 3-pointer and made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt to propel that spurt. He didn't return in the fourth quarter with the game in hand.

The Spurs, who were without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge, got 14 points each from Forbes and Derrick White. They lost for the fifth time in six games as they fight for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Westbrook notches 20th triple-double in OKC win
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points and notched his 20th triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Sacramento Kings 106-101 on Monday night.

Westbrook had 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the 99th triple-double of his career.

Paul George and Carmelo Anthony each scored 21 points for the Thunder, who moved into fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

Thunder center Steven Adams left the game in the third quarter with a left hip contusion and did not return. Just two days earlier against San Antonio, he hurt his left ankle in the third quarter and did not return.

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 19 points and Garrett Temple and Justin Jackson each added 15 for the Kings (see full recap).

Bucks send Grizzlies to 18th straight loss
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Khris Middleton scored 24 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 20 and the Milwaukee Bucks sent the Memphis Grizzlies to their 18th consecutive loss with a 121-103 victory on Monday night.

Brandon Jennings, signed to a 10-day contract by Milwaukee on Saturday, finished two rebounds short of a triple-double with 16 points and 12 assists. Eric Bledsoe added 14 points, including a trio of baskets to stem a fourth-quarter Memphis rally.

Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 17 points, while Jarell Martin, Dillon Brooks and Ben McLemore scored 16 apiece.

Memphis, which trailed by as many as 19 in the third quarter, used its bench to push back into the game in the fourth. The reserves crafted a 14-3 run to pull within 97-91 with 6:34 left.

Bledsoe scored six of the Bucks' next eight points, then added an assist to Antetokounmpo, running the lead back to 12 with 4:09 left. That was enough of a buffer for the Bucks to claim their second straight win.

Jennings came in firing and providing a fast pace for the Bucks. He scored 11 points before halftime and also dished out nine assists, helping Milwaukee to a 64-50 lead at intermission.

Middleton had 15 points in the half to lead Bucks scorers (see full recap).

Win streaks fall around the NBA

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Win streaks fall around the NBA

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored 30 points, DeMar DeRozan had 23 and the Toronto Raptors beat Houston 108-105 on Friday night, snapping the Rockets' 17-game winning streak.

James Harden scored 40 points but the Rockets lost for the first time since Jan. 27 at New Orleans.

Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 10 rebounds as the Raptors won their seventh straight in a matchup between the respective conference leaders.

The Rockets shot 9 for 27 from 3-point range, matching their fewest made 3-pointers of the season.

Clint Capela had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Rockets. Chris Paul and Eric Gordon each scored 14 points, and Trevor Ariza had 13 as Houston's road winning streak ended at 10 (see full recap).

Wizards snap Davis-less Pelicans’ win streak at 10
NEW ORLEANS -- Otto Porter Jr. scored 19 points and the Washington Wizards cruised to a 116-97 victory Friday night over the New Orleans Pelicans, who couldn't overcome the absence of All-Star Anthony Davis and had their 10-game winning streak snapped.

Markieff Morris scored 17 and Bradley Beal added 16 for the Wizards, who led by as many as 27 points en route to their second straight victory.

Without the 6-foot-10 Davis' ability to affect opponents' shots or prolong Pelicans possession with offensive rebounds, New Orleans looked overmatched on the boards. Washington outrebounded New Orleans 49-38, and converted 10 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.

The Pelicans, by comparison, managed just two offensive rebounds and four second-chance points.

Darius Miller scored 20 points and Cheick Diallo a season-high 14 for the Pelicans, who'll hope to have Davis back for their next game against Utah (see full recap).

Bucks regroup to finish off struggling Knicks
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, outmuscling the New York Knicks in the lane to help the Milwaukee Bucks hold on for a 120-112 win on Friday night.

Khris Middleton had a game-high 30 points for the Bucks, who got a head-start on their fourth-quarter surge when Antetokounmpo rejected Emmanuel Mudiay's attempted layup before the third-quarter buzzer to preserve a 91-89 lead.

The Bucks took control with a 19-7 run over a six-plus minute stretch of the fourth to build a 16-point lead that withstood a late run by the Knicks. Antetokounmpo wheeled his way past defenders to get to the foul line, while Middleton provided balance from the perimeter after his 3 with 5:03 left gave Milwaukee a 112-96 advantage.

New York, which finished a winless four-game road trip, has lost 14 of its last 15 games (see full recap).

Looking at Sixers' top competition for LeBron

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Looking at Sixers' top competition for LeBron

With The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reporting that he keeps hearing the Sixers, Rockets, Lakers and Cavs are the four teams on LeBron James' free-agency wishlist, let's take a look at feasibility and fit of the Sixers' top three competitors for The King's services:

Houston is the favorite in Vegas to land LeBron. The Rockets already have two superstars and an emerging, high-level rim protector in Clint Capela. Houston is a big market and the Rockets may even have a chance to beat the Warriors this season, without LeBron.

From a titles standpoint, the Rockets make the most sense for The King. It's a ready-made championship situation, but it wouldn't be simple building that roster.

To make room for LeBron, the Rockets would have to find a taker for Ryan Anderson's $20 million annual salary. That won't be easy and will almost certainly require Houston to part with a first-round pick or two.

The Rockets will also likely have to find takers for the contracts of P.J. Tucker and Nene, two valuable role players but obviously pieces you're OK with losing for the likes of an all-time great.

From a salary cap perspective, the Rockets could put together a roster including LeBron, James Harden, Chris Paul, Capela and maybe Eric Gordon, but the rest of the team would have to be filled out with minimum types of contracts.

LeBron has two homes in Los Angeles, and the Lakers now have cap space for two huge contracts thanks to the Jordan Clarkson-Larry Nance-Isaiah Thomas trade with Cleveland.

Those are the pros for L.A.

The cons are how it would all fit.

The Lakers' best-case offseason scenario would be signing both LeBron and Paul George. Let's imagine for a second that happens. You'd have a Lakers team featuring LeBron, George, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball. With zero rim protection.

Obviously, in this scenario, a trade would be necessary — involving Ball, Kuzma or maybe both. The Lakers would need more shooting and inside defense, and Ball's best quality (distribution) would be a lot less necessary with LeBron.

Would a team like that win a championship in a loaded West? Probably not. LeBron has to realize that Houston aside, staying in the Eastern Conference gives him the best chance at advancing deep into the playoffs every season. 

If the Cavs have an inkling LeBron is staying, they'd trade that coveted Nets lottery pick for an established star. 

But even with another established star — whoever that may be — this is a fading Cavs team. Kevin Love's trade value isn't nearly as high as it once was. 

The Cavs also have so much money committed to so many guys that they lack roster flexibility. If LeBron, Love and the cast of role players return, along with whoever they trade the Nets pick for, that's still probably a 50-plus win team in the East but not a surefire favorite with the Celtics, Raptors and Sixers all getting better.

These four teams sure look like the only four legit contenders for LeBron, but anyone who claims to know what he will decide at this point is full of it.