James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists to spark the Houston Rockets to a 120-97 NBA victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
The Rockets improved to 15-12, sixth in the Western Conference, with their fourth victory in a row, a streak that began in New York when Lin returned to beat his former Knicks teammates at Madison Square Garden earlier this month.
Chandler Parsons added 23 points for the Rockets, who outscored the Bulls 31-19 in the second quarter and 36-27 in the third period, pulling ahead by as much as 86-51 late in the third quarter.
Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 21 points, while Italy’s Marco Belinelli added 15 points and Britain’s Luol Deng contributed 14 for the Bulls, who fell to 15-12, falling behind Indiana (16-12) in the fight for the Central division lead.
Meanwhile Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, helping the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 100-94 to extend the Lakers’ winning streak to five games.
Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks.
The Lakers improved their record to 14-14 and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home.
The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points, but they struggled offensively in the fourth quarter, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five.
Bryant had eight of the Lakers’ first 10 points to open the fourth during a run that provided their first lead since the opening quarter in a game matching the two teams that have played the most on Christmas Day.
Steve Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game with the Lakers in nearly two months. He missed 24 straight games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. Dwight Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Miami Heat survived a frantic finish to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97 and improve their season record to 19-6, matching the team’s best 25-game start.
LeBron James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 21 and Mario Chalmers had a season-high 20 for the defending NBA champions.
Kevin Durant scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potentially game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each added 15 for the Thunder, who have dropped two straight for the first time this season.
Oklahoma City got within one when Durant made a jumper over James with less than a minute to play, but Miami hit all five of their free throws in the final moments to seal the victory.
The Boston Celtics easily defeated the Brooklyn Nets 93-76 in the teams’ first meeting since their contentious game a month ago in which three players were ejected for fighting.
Rajon Rondo scored 19 points, rookie Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 16 points and Jeff Green had 15 for the Celtics (14-13), who avoided falling under .500 with just their second victory in six games.
Rondo, who was thrown out of the Nets’ Nov. 28 victory in Boston after shoving Brooklyn’s Kris Humphries into the courtside seats, outplayed counterpart Deron Williams and helped the Celtics take control early.
Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez each scored 15 for the Nets, who have lost four of five.
There was a brief skirmish in the fourth quarter that resulted in four technical fouls, but that was the most fight the Nets put up in a disappointing performance on the national stage of the Christmas opener. Williams had only 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting and Joe Johnson, his partner in a high-priced backcourt, shot 4 of 14 for his 12 points.
In Tuesday’s final game the Los Angeles Clippers stretched their winning streak to 14 games by defeating the Denver Nuggets 112-100, Jamal Crawford scoring 22 points and Matt Barnes 20.
The Clippers, who have reached the playoffs only once since 1997, improved to 22-6, taking the best record in the league after Oklahoma City defeat earlier on Tuesday.
Chris Paul added 14 points and a game-high eight assists for the Clippers, the most of any Los Angeles starter as the hosts outscored Denver 42-22 in the second quarter for a 67-48 half-time lead and cruised through the second half.
Blake Griffin had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Clippers
Jordan Hamilton and Kosta Koufos each scored 16 points to lead the Nuggets while Ty Lawson added 15 for Denver.