Harden leads fast-starting Rockets over Thunder
HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 15 of his 31 points in a big first quarter which set up Houston’s 112-101 win against Oklahoma City on Thursday, moving the Rockets into a virtual tie for top spot in the NBA Southwest Division.
Houston has one less win but also one less loss than Memphis, which leads the Southwest on percentage.
In the day’s other games, LeBron James led Cleveland over a Los Angeles Lakers side that could not muster enough support for Kobe Bryant, while Milwaukee beat New York in London, to extend the Knicks’ record losing skid.
Harden came just short of a triple-double with 10 assists and nine rebounds. Trevor Ariza added 17 points and four steals for the Rockets, who led 40-18 after one quarter.
Kevin Durant had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.
Cleveland’s LeBron James scored 36 points as the Cavaliers won 109-102 at the Lakers, ending a run of six successive losses.
Kyrie Irving added 22 points for Cleveland, which prevailed in what developed into a clash of superstars as James took on Bryant.
Bryant hit a 3-pointer with 1:54 left and two free throws with 43 seconds to play, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 103-99. But James drove past Bryant for an acrobatic layup with 20.9 seconds left, and Bryant missed a jumper that essentially ended it.
Bryant finished with 19 points and a career high 17 assists.
New York’s losing skid reached 16 games with a 95-79 loss to Milwaukee.
O.J. Mayo scored 22 points while Brandon Knight had 20 points and six steals for the Bucks.
With the Knicks showing why they have lost 26 of 27 games and have the worst record in the NBA at 5-36, the contest was a poor advertisement for the league in its annual London showcase game.
The Knicks missed their first 10 shots — three in a 6-second span — and gave up 14 offensive rebounds, 10 in the first half. The Bucks took a 12-0 lead, were up by 24 in the second quarter and never let New York closer than 11 the rest of the way.
The return of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire did little to spark New York.
Carmelo Anthony returned from six games out with a knee injury to lead the Knicks with 25 points while Amare Stoudemire played his first game since Christmas and did not score in his eight minutes of court time.