NBA: Thunder win to spoil Harden’s return

MISFIRING ROCKETS::Jeremy Lin made six points, eight assists, three rebounds and four steals for Houston, but in vain, as Oklahoma won comfortably

Agencies, with Staff writer

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 - Page 20

Kevin Durant greeted former teammate James Harden with 37 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder blasted the Houston Rockets 120-98 on Wednesday to spoil the shooting guard’s return to the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Harden returned to Oklahoma City for the first time since being traded just before the season and it was a forgettable night for him and the Rockets (7-8).

Powered by Durant’s hot shooting, the Thunder (12-4) blew open a close game in the second quarter where they led by 18 before keeping the visiting Rockets at bay.

“I really wanted to win this game,” Durant told reporters. “Especially for all those times in practice that [Harden] and the rest of the second team beat all of us on the first team.”

Serge Ibaka backed Durant with 23 and nine rebounds as Oklahoma City raced to their second straight blowout, having destroyed Charlotte 114-69 on Monday.

Harden, the Sixth Man of the Year last season, has emerged as the lead scorer for Houston, but struggled against the Thunder, making three of 16 shots for 17 points.

Jeremy Lin made six points, eight assists, three rebounds and four steals.

It had already been a humbling day for the Rockets who earlier attended the funeral of coach Kevin McHale’s daughter who died from an autoimmune disease last week. McHale has been away from the team since Nov. 10.

Patrick Patterson scored a team-high 27 points for Houston but there were few bright spots for the visitors.

The Rockets were within two after the first quarter, but Oklahoma City opened the second with a 9-0 run and kicked things into another gear.

Kevin Martin, who was sent to the Thunder from Houston as part of the Harden trade, ended up with 17 points off the bench.

Harden got a warm ovation before the game. His quick departure had come as a shock to Thunder fans after he helped lead Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals, but could not come to terms on a new contract with the team.

“I was put in a tough situation where things didn’t happen the way I wanted them to,” Harden said. “That’s in the past. All I can do now is focus on what I need to do to be a better basketball player and leader.”

Nets 95, Celtics 83

In Boston, Joe Johnson scored 18 points, while Andray Blatche had 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Boston Celtics after Rajon Rondo was ejected following a fight.

The Celtics point guard was tossed after he shoved Kris Humphries to retaliate for the Nets forward’s hard foul against Kevin Garnett. Humphries and Brooklyn forward Gerald Wallace were also ejected for their roles in the second-quarter skirmish.

Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Paul Pierce added 14 points for Boston. Rondo had three assists before he was kicked out, ending his streak at 37 games with double-digits, tied for second-longest in NBA history.

The Nets led by 21 in the second half and never less than nine in the fourth quarter.

WIZARDS 84, TRAIL BLAZERS 82

In Washington the Wizards earned their first victory after starting the season with 12 straight losses, getting 19 points from Jordan Crawford to beat Portland.

Washington survived a scoreless 6:47 in the fourth when Crawford hit on a three-pointer with 2:06 to play, and the Wizards finally took the 84-82 lead on Emeka Okafor’s two free throws with 39.1 seconds remaining.

Damian Lillard was called for traveling with 28 seconds left. After Nene was called for an offensive foul, J.J. Hickson missed a jumper with 2.8 seconds to play. The Wizards lost the ball with 0.2 seconds to go, but held on to end the skid.

Nine teams started the season 0-13, and the Wizards were tired of the ridicule they’d been subjected to — locally and nationally — as they crept toward the Nets’ NBA record-worst start of 0-18.

BULLS 101, MAVERICKS 78

In Chicago Luol Deng had 22 points and six rebounds to lead Chicago over Dallas.

Five players scored at least 11 points to help the Bulls (7-7) beat the Mavericks for the fourth straight time.

Nate Robinson added 14 points and six assists for Chicago, and fellow reserve Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 13, including nine-of-10 shooting from the free -throw line.

Joakim Noah chipped in 13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks as Chicago avoided their first three-game losing streak at the United Center since dropping five straight in March 2010.

Shawn Marion scored 18 points for Dallas, who shot just 35 percent to lose for the eighth time in 11 games. The Mavericks (7-9), who had won 21 of 27 against Chicago, dropped to 2-6 on the road.

GRIZZLIES 103, RAPTORS 82

In Memphis, Tennessee, Marreese Speights had 18 points and 12 rebounds to help Memphis beat Toronto for their third straight win.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph finished with 17 points apiece, while Randolph added 13 rebounds and six assists. Mike Conley had 16 points, going four of five on three-pointers, and Rudy Gay added 14 as the Grizzlies maintained the best record in the NBA (11-2).

DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 16 points, while Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon scored 12 apiece. Linas Kleiza added 11 points, but was five of 15 from the field, as Toronto lost their sixth straight.

The Raptors played without Andrea Bargnani, their second-leading scorer, who sat out after hurting his left ankle in Tuesday night’s loss at Houston.

KNICKS 102, BUCKS 88

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points to lead New York past Milwaukee.

Anthony, who sat out the fourth quarter, was 9 of 18 from the floor and also grabbed eight rebounds in 30 minutes. The second-leading scorer in the NBA has scored at least 29 points in his last four games, including 35 points and 13 rebounds in a 96-89 overtime loss at Brooklyn on Monday.

New York’s Steve Novak added 19 points and Tyson Chandler chipped in with 17 points and eight rebounds for the Knicks, who snapped a three-game road losing streak.

Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Beno Udrih each scored 18 points. The Bucks have lost four of their last five.

PISTONS 117, SUNS 77

In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Brandon Knight and Charlie Villanueva scored 19 points apiece, and Detroit routed Phoenix to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Detroit are 5-3 since opening 0-8. The Pistons led 55-44 at halftime and then broke the game open when the Suns came unglued in the third quarter. Phoenix picked up four technical fouls in the third and trailed by as many as 44 in the fourth.

Rodney Stuckey added 18 points for Detroit. Kyle Singler and Tayshaun Prince contributed 12 each, while Greg Monroe had nine points and eight rebounds.

Luis Scola scored 11 points for the Suns.

The Pistons avenged a 92-89 loss at Phoenix in early November.

CLIPPERS 101, TIMBERWOLVES 95

In Los Angeles, Chris Paul had 23 points and 11 assists, as the Los Angeles Clippers welcomed Chauncey Billups back to the lineup for the first time this season with in a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Billups had eight points and three assists in 20 minutes as the Clippers ended a four-game losing streak.

The five-time All-Star was sidelined for more than nine months after tearing his left Achilles’ tendon on Feb. 6 in Orlando.

In Wednesday’s other games it was:

‧ Hawks 94, Bobcats 91

‧ Spurs 110, Magic 89

‧ Jazz 96, Hornets 84