Nationals

Rockets surge past Bulls 120-97

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Rockets surge past Bulls 120-97

CHICAGO (AP) James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 120-97 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.

Omer Asik returned to the United Center and had a double-double with 20 points and 18 rebounds in his first trip back to Chicago since signing with the Rockets in the offseason.

The Rockets starters all scored in double figures. Chandler Parsons added 23 points and Marcus Morris had 10.

Houston has won six of seven.

The Rockets had been just 3-7 on the road entering Tuesday, but a strong second quarter turned the holiday matchup into a blowout. The Rockets outscored the Bulls 31-19 in the period to break the game open.

Lin capped a 14-2 run midway through the quarter with a drive and a layup to make it 55-34. He scored 12 in the second quarter and Harden had 13.

Houston led 58-41 at halftime.

Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 27 points, and Marco Belinelli scored 15.

Houston entered the game tops in the league in scoring at 105.4 points per game, while Chicago allowed the third-fewest in the league at 91.

Houston, though, was not slowed at all.

The Rockets pushed the pace and shot well against Chicago's defense. The Rockets outscored the Bulls 66-32 in the paint and 31-8 in transition. Their largest lead was 35 points.

The 120 points allowed and 23-point loss were season-worsts for the Bulls.

The Turkish-born Asik spent his first two years in the NBA with Chicago. He signed a three-year, $25 million offer sheet with the Rockets this summer that the Bulls did not match. He entered the game averaging 10.6 points and 11.4 rebounds, and put together perhaps his best game of the season.

Asik received a round of applause when he was introduced at the beginning of the game, but the hospitality didn't last. He quickly heard jeers when he stepped to the free throw line early in the first quarter.

Harden, fourth in the league in scoring, followed up two strong performances - 37 points against Detroit and 45 against Atlanta - with another strong game. He was 7 for 13 from the field and 11 for 13 from the free throw line.

Houston improved to 11-2 against the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls had won nine of 13 to climb into first place in the Eastern Conference's Central Division, but were flat for the second consecutive game. Chicago lost 92-75 Saturday in Atlanta.

Boos came down from the United Center crowd when Asik scored to make it 82-51 in the third quarter.

Chicago cut the Houston lead to 100-85 with just under eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but a 6-0 Rockets' run ended the rally.

NOTE: Both teams have quick turnarounds for Wednesday games. The Bulls travel to Indianapolis to play the Pacers and the Rockets visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

NEW YORK – A few constants remain during this wayward Nationals season. One is Max Scherzer.

Scherzer comes into Tuesday leading the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's second in strikeouts per nine innings and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scherzer's 3.72 ERA is well above his average of 2.71 since arriving in Washington in 2015. However, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a league-leading 2.45, showing he has been victimized by bad defense more than bad pitching.

He hopped on a pop-up edition of The Racing Presidents podcast Tuesday in New York. Sitting in the visitors dugout a day ahead of another matchup with 2018 Cy Young Award Jacob deGrom, Scherzer touched on lighter topics, like his selection of Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" as his walkup song, and addressed who is responsible for the Nationals being seven games under .500 the last year-plus.

We're all responsible," Scherzer said. "When you wear a hat and jersey that says Nationals on it, we're all in the same position. It's frustrating to not have a winning record. It's frustrating not to be winning as a team. [Since] I've been here, we've won a couple division titles and you know that feeling of what it's like to win. You know you have the core group of players who have won here in the past that can win here again. It's just a matter of figuring out what the right chemistry is and going out there and getting it done."

Scherzer is in his 12th major-league season. He's made at least 30 starts for 10 consecutive seasons. One of the reasons for his lack of injuries and durability is not because he goes through extensive recuperation during the offseason. Instead, Scherzer keeps pushing both his arm and body. 

"I try to find a way to continue to do more, to take more on my body even as I age," Scherzer said.

And, about that walkup song, which is part-protest, part-comeback song? He was out to dinner with reliever Aaron Barrett when it popped on and Barrett suggested it as this year's entrance music.

So, click below to listen to everything Scherzer had to say in our exclusive interview. Also, don't forget to download, rate and subscribe to The Racing Presidents podcast. We're with you after every game and with marquee interviews and insight you can't find elsewhere.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

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