On a night when James Harden’s shots were not falling for three quarters, the Houston Rockets got big performances from those in supporting roles until the star stepped up late to close out the victory.
Harden scored 18 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and Ben McLemore added 27 to help the Rockets outlast the Phoenix Suns 115-109 on Saturday.
Harden had a tough shooting night through three quarters and was five of 19 overall and one of 10 from beyond the three-point arc with 16 points before getting going in the fourth. The game was tied with about seven minutes left and he scored all of Houston’s points in a 13-6 run that made it 102-95.
“That’s how deep we are,” Harden said. “We have a really good team and guys that can make plays and knock down shots. More importantly we were focused on our defense.”
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists for his third straight triple-double and sixth this season. Harden finished eight of 27, three of 17 on threes and made 15 of 18 free throws.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 35 points after scoring a season-high 44 in an overtime victory at New Orleans on Thursday night.
Phoenix coach Monty Williams was proud of his team for staying in it until the very end.
“We have a mentality that we just don’t give in,” Williams said. “We’re playing young guys that are learning how to play against physical NBA men and that’s part of developing.”
The Suns cut the lead to five twice in the last 90 seconds, but both times Westbrook made a layup to extend the advantage. The second time he was fouled on the shot and made the free throw to make the score 114-106.
In Los Angeles, Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic put his name alongside that of NBA icon Michael Jordan as he scored 26 points in the Dallas Mavericks’ 130-84 rout of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Doncic also handed out nine assists and grabbed six rebounds in 26 minutes on the floor. It was his 18th straight game with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.
That tied him with six-time NBA champion Jordan for the longest such streak since the NBA/ABA merger in the 1970s. The only other player in NBA history to achieve the feat is Oscar Robertson.
The Mavericks’ big win was just one of the blowouts on a night that saw the Philadelphia 76ers crush the Cleveland Cavaliers 141-94 behind 34 points from Ben Simmons.
Elsewhere, the Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies 126-112.
SWEEP THE LEG: Poirier, determined to best McGregor, after losing to him in 2014, used low calf kicks to throw ‘Notorious’ off his stand-up game, before dropping him American underdog Dustin Poirier yesterday shook up the world of mixed martial arts, beating up the legs of Irish superstar Conor McGregor before knocking him out at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi. “I’m happy, but I’m not surprised. I put in the work,” Poirier said, after the referee stepped in after 2 minutes, 32 seconds of the second round to save McGregor from further damage, after he was dropped by a fierce combination of punches. The 32-year-old Poirier was ranked second in the flyweight division going into the fight, but still rated a heavy underdog by bookmakers to beat his fourth-ranked opponent,
World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying yesterday eased past her Thai opponent to advance to the second round of the Toyota Thailand Open. The Taiwanese star toppled world No. 46 Supanida Katethong 21-16, 21-11 in 29 minutes at the Impact Arena in Bangkok. “I think I played OK today. I am feeling a little better than last week,” Tai said. Tomorrow, Tai faces Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. The two have faced each other six times, with Tai beating the world No. 21 in all six matches. Tai on Sunday reached the final of the Yonex Thailand Open before losing decisively against Carolina Marin of Spain.
LOOKING TO REPEAT: World No. 7 Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin advanced to the round-of-16 at the Toyota Thailand Open, after winning the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday Taiwan’s world No. 7 duo yesterday eased past the US’ world No. 37 pairing at the Toyota Thailand Open to reach the round-of-16 in Bangkok. Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin beat Phillip Chew and Ryan Chew 21-14, 21-11 in just 24 minutes. Lee and Wang, who won the men’s doubles title at the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday, next face the world No. 34 pairing, Canada’s Jason Anthony Ho-Shue and Nyl Yakura. In men’s singles, Taiwan’s world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen again beat Thailand’s world No. 45 Suppanyu Avihingsanon, after edging past the Thai player in the opening round of the Yonex
Three new COVID-19 cases yesterday hit the Australian Open’s troubled buildup as a backlash grew against international tennis players flown in during a raging pandemic. Two of the new cases were players, state health officials said, taking the total infections to seven since more than 1,000 people arrived in largely COVID-19-free Australia on charter flights last week. The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said that the two players and a third person associated with the tournament — a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s — had returned positive results. The year’s first Grand Slam, delayed three weeks,