Harden fuels Rockets as Cavaliers fizzle out

Houston's James Harden scoring a basket during the first quarter against Cleveland at Toyota Centre. The Rockets beat the Cavs 117-112.
Houston's James Harden scoring a basket during the first quarter against Cleveland at Toyota Centre. The Rockets beat the Cavs 117-112.PHOTO: REUTERS

HOUSTON • The Houston Rockets handled all the praise that came their way on Sunday with a deft touch, noting that their opponents played the previous night in Orlando and that this result was a measuring stick and nothing more.

Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden recorded his 16th triple-double and the Rockets grabbed a season-high 20 offensive rebounds to claim a 117-112 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Toyota Centre.

Harden scored a game-high 38 points and added 10 rebounds and 11 assists as Houston (46-21) split the season series with Cleveland (43-22).

His 11-point third quarter helped the Rockets erase a 67-58 half-time deficit and his nine points, four rebounds and two assists in the final period enabled Houston to pull away late.

Houston committed just six turnovers, as the Cavaliers shot 52.5 per cent from the floor but were minus-16 in shot attempts, a mark of the Rockets' effort.

"It was key for us to make sure we blocked (Cavaliers centre Tristan Thompson) off and gang rebound," said Harden, who scored or assisted on 65 points and is averaging 32.7 points in his triple-doubles.

"Even guards like Lou (Williams) got six rebounds. That was one of the big keys going into the game."

The Cavaliers fell to 22-2 when shooting at least 50 per cent.

LeBron James paced Cleveland with 30 points and added seven rebounds and five assists while Kyrie Irving chipped in 28 points and eight assists.

Richard Jefferson tallied 16 points for the Cavs, who fell to 0-9 on the road in the second half of back-to-backs.

"We competed and we played hard and fought down the stretch and we got tired," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

"What we took advantage of in the first half we weren't able to get those things in the second half because our guys got tired."

Rockets forward Ryan Anderson said: "It was belief in our system and just locking down. Especially in the second half we were talking a ton about locking down on defence and running. That's our advantage every night - getting stops and our ability to space the floor and run."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Harden fuels Rockets as Cavaliers fizzle out'. Print Edition | Subscribe