Basketball: Heat ground Rockets as Paul leaves injured, Clippers stave off Mavericks comeback

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson drives to the basket past Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon during their NBA game at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Dec 21, 2018.
Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson drives to the basket past Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon during their NBA game at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Dec 21, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The Miami Heat snapped Houston's five-game NBA winning streak with a 101-99 victory on Thursday (Dec 20) in a game that saw Rockets point guard Chris Paul injured again.

The Rockets, coming off an 18-point victory over Washington on Wednesday in which they set a single-game record with 26 three-pointers, were leading 45-37 in the second quarter when Paul, diving to regain control of the ball, clutched his left thigh and quickly departed.

The Rockets later said Paul had a left hamstring strain and would not return.

"It'll be some time," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said of Paul, who is scheduled for an MRI exam on Friday.

The defeat and injury were a double-blow for a Rockets team that had looked to be turning the corner after a slow start to the season.

With five straight wins they had risen from 14th to seventh in the Western Conference in the space of a week. But the loss of Paul could prove particularly damaging.

They lost games six and seven of the Western Conference finals last season after Paul suffered a right hamstring injury.

 

"It's part of the game," Harden said of adjusting to life without Paul. "You've got to figure it out. Injuries happen - opportunities for other guys to step up, keep going."

Josh Richardson led the Heat with 22 points. Tyler Johnson added 19 - producing a layup, a big block and a three-pointer to gave the Heat a 96-92 lead with less than three minutes remaining.

James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, 12 assists and six rebounds, climbing off the floor after a frightening fall midway through the fourth quarter to make two free throws that pulled Houston into a 90-89 lead.

But the Rockets could not hang on. Miami star Dwyane Wade missed jump shots on the Heat's last possession and Houston's Gerald Green corralled a rebound.

Eric Gordon in-bounded to Harden, who passed back to Gordon whose bid for a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

"We had a lot of opportunities," Harden said. "We gave them a lot of second chance opportunities, especially in the first half (that) kept them in the game and they made big shots in the end."

In Los Angeles, Danilo Gallinari scored 32 points and Lou Williams added 26 in his return from a hamstring injury as the Los Angeles Clippers overcame a late run by the visiting Dallas Mavericks for a 125-121 victory.

The Clippers ended their four-game losing streak while the Mavericks took their fourth consecutive defeat. Los Angeles had lost six of its previous seven games.

Rookie Luka Doncic scored a career-high 32 points and J.J. Barea added 19 for the Mavericks, who are 0-2 on their four-game road trip that concludes at Golden State and Portland.

DeAndre Jordan scored 11 points and grabbed 22 rebounds for the Mavs in his first game at Los Angeles against the Clippers since leaving his former team as a free agent in the offseason. Jordan had 23 rebounds against the Clippers in a game at Dallas earlier this month.

Jordan had at least 20 rebounds for the fifth time this season, with four of those coming in December. He had 23 rebounds against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.

The Clippers' Doc Rivers picked up his 864th career coaching victory, tying him for 13th all-time in NBA history with Jack Ramsay.

Montrezl Harrell had 18 points, and Tobias Harris added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers. Williams played 23 minutes after missing the previous four games.