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James Harden has triple-double in Houston return

By The Associated Press

HOUSTON — The No. 13 on his jersey, James Harden won so many games for the Houston Rockets.

On Wednesday night in the first meeting with his former team, No. 13 had a triple-double for the Brooklyn Nets to send the reeling Rockets to their 13th straight loss.

“A lot of mixed emotions from the fans but I knew that was going to happen,” Harden said. “I just wanted to come out here and give them a show.”

He did that with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in the 132-114 victory. The Nets set a franchise record with their seventh straight road victory. They’ve won 10 of their last 11 overall.

Harden has meshed well with his new team and the Nets are 17-7 since the trade.

“So far, so good,” he said. “It’s everything that I signed up for. Top to bottom it’s been great.”

It’s the longest skid for the Rockets, who had just eight players available because of injuries, since they dropped 15 in a row in 2001. They’ve had a tough time since Harden was traded Jan. 14 and haven’t won since Feb. 4.

The Rockets used a 10-0 run, with five points from John Wall, to cut the lead to eight with about eight minutes left in the fourth. But the Nets scored the next eight points, with two 3s from Harden, to extend it to 113-97 midway through the quarter.

It’s the eighth triple-double for Harden this season and his second straight after he had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 15 assists without a turnover in an overtime victory at San Antonio on Monday night. He didn’t play as clean of a game Wednesday when he had eight turnovers.

Harden got a mixed reception from the crowd. Many of the 3,615 fans booed when he was introduced before the game and more boos came the first few times he touched the ball.

He said it was a “little weird” being on the visitor’s side but denied having any extra emotions.

“Once I get on that court I’m just trying to win,” he said. “So that was kind of my feeling. I wasn’t trying to show off. I wasn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary that I haven’t been doing. Just playing my brand of basketball.”

The Rockets played a video showcasing some of the countless highlights of his eight seasons in Houston during a timeout in the first quarter. There were more cheers than boos as it played. Harden stepped out of the huddle and raised his arms before placing his hands in a praying position to acknowledge the fans as it ended.

“You could tell it meant something to him,” coach Steve Nash said. “This place is special to James. Houston means a lot to him … so I know it was a big game for him. I was proud of the way he handled it.”

Wall had a season-high 36 points, and Victor Oladipo also set his season high with 33.

Houston coach Stephen Silas said the strong play of those two stars is an encouraging sign amid this difficult stretch.

“It lets us know that when we get back and we’re healthy and we’re whole and we are in a position where we have enough guys to compete we’re going to be just fine,” he said.

76ers 131, Utah 123, OT

PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid had 40 points and 19 rebounds and hit a tying 3-pointer late in regulation, and Tobias Harris scored 11 of his 22 points in overtime to lead Philadelphia past Utah in a battle of division leaders.

Ben Simmons added 17 points for the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers.

Donovan Mitchell had 33 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the NBA-leading Jazz’s second straight loss. Mitchell was ejected with 30.8 seconds left in overtime after picking up his second technical. He got his first with 57.5 seconds remaining in the extra period after arguing a foul call.

Kings 123, Lakers 120

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Buddy Hield shook off a sore ankle to score 29 points and Sacramento beat short-handed Los Angeles.

Hield’s status for the game was in doubt because of a sprained right ankle but he decided to play through it and helped the Kings win for just the second time in the past 12 games.

They took advantage of a banged-up Lakers team missing LeBron James and Anthony Davis to bounce back from Sunday’s late-game collapse against Charlotte when they missed five foul shots in the final 69 seconds to blow an eight-point lead.

Dennis Schroder scored 28 points to lead Los Angeles, Montrezl Harrell added 26 points and Kuzma 25. But it wasn’t enough for the Lakers, who lost for the sixth time in eight games to fall into a tie for third place in the Western Conference.

Pacers 114,

Cavaliers 111

CLEVELAND — T.J. McConnell set an NBA record with nine steals in the first half and had his second career triple-double with 16 points, 13 assists and a franchise-best 10 steals, leading Indiana past Cavaliers.

McConnell was one off the NBA record of 11 steals set San Antonio’s Larry Kenon on Dec. 26, 1976, at Kansas City, and matched by New Jersey’s Kendall Gill on April 3, 1999, against Miami.

McConnell was 8 of 8 from the field in 36 minutes off the bench, and Malcolm Brogdon scored 27 points to help Indiana snapped a four-game skid. The Pacers overcame a 19-point deficit in the third quarter.

Collin Sexton had 32 points, 10 assists and three steals for Cleveland. The Cavaliers had won four in a row.

Mavericks 87,

Thunder 78

DALLAS — Kristaps Porzingis had 19 points and 13 rebounds with European sidekick Luka Doncic sidelined by a back issue going into his second All-Star appearance, and Dallas beat Oklahoma City.

Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 19 points, Josh Richardson added 16 and Dallas cruised most of the second half without the NBA’s sixth-leading scorer.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 points for Oklahoma City.

Trail Blazers 108,

Warriors 106

PORTLAND, Ore. — Damian Lillard hit a deep 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left and Portland held off Golden State.

Lillard and Carmelo Anthony each had 22 points for Portland.

Stephen Curry led Golden State with 35 points. The Warriors were without Kelly Oubre Jr. because of a sprained wrist. He was injured in practice Tuesday.

Pistons 129,

Raptors 105

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Wayne Ellington scored 25 points and Detroit beat virus-depleted Toronto to snap a three-game losing streak.

Ellington was 8 of 11 from 3-point range and the Pistons were 20 for 41 overall from long range. Detroit’s backup had 56 points, with Rodney McGruder and Saben Lee each finishing with 20.

Norman Powell had 36 points for Toronto, and Kyle Lowry added 21 points.

The Raptors played without Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Coach Nick Nurse and most of his staff also were held out.

The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday night, but postponed because of the Raptors’ COVID outbreak.

Hawks 115, Magic 112

ORLANDO, Fla. — Trae Young scored 32 points and hit the go-ahead free throws with eight seconds remaining as Atlanta Hawks rallied from 19 down in the second half to beat Orlando.

Atlanta made 9 of 13 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and 21 of 45 in the game to complete their biggest comeback of the season.

Atlanta improved to 2-0 under interim coach Nate McMillan and won consecutive games for the first time in 5 1/2 weeks. McMillan took over Monday when Lloyd Pierce was fired.

Nikola Vucevic had 29 points and nine rebounds for Orlando.

Bulls 128, Pelicans 124

NEW ORLEANS — Zach LaVine capped a 36-point performance with a driving layup and four free throws during the final minute, and Chicago held off New Orleans.

Coby White scored 25 points for the Bulls. They led by many as 19 and were still up 18 in the fourth quarter before the Pelicans’ late surge pulled them as close as 117-113 on Jaxson Hayes alley-oop dunk as he was fouled with 1:49 left.

Zion Williamson led the Pelicans with 28 points.

Hornets 135,

Timberwolves 102

MINNEAPOLIS — Terry Rozier scored 31 points, Gordon Hayward added 23 and Charlotte headed into the All-Star break with an easy victory over Minnesota.

The Hornets have alternated wins and losses for the past 11 games, with the victory coming after a loss Monday night at Portland.

The Timberwolves have lost nine in a row and 13 of 14.

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