Rockets keep race for West top seeding simmering

NEW YORK • Had Houston not been up by 11 points with 11 seconds to go, Rockets fans would have been less forgiving of Chris Paul's bizarre turnover for high-fiving a spectator during Houston's 96-85 win at Utah on Monday.

That fan was none other than James Harden's mother, Monja Willis, who was thrilled with Paul's 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Her son also did not disappoint with 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists as the Rockets clinched their 13th win in a row.

Paul was called for a turnover because Willis was standing out of bounds when he tapped her hand while holding onto the ball.

As it was, no harm was done and Harden and Paul were able to engage in a bit of good-natured ribbing.

"C'mon @jharden13... get ya moms!!," tweeted Paul, to which Harden cheekily replied: "She cooked you maan lol."

Cameroonian Luc Mbah a Moute added 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter at the Vivint Smart Home Arena, as the Rockets swept their season series with Utah 4-0, although it was far from easy going against a resolute Jazz, who were also on a fine run with 12 wins in 13 games, until the third quarter.

The New York Knicks' Frank Ntilikina can only stop Golden State's Kevin Durant illegally as the Warriors forward drives to the basket. The NBA champions swatted away the Knicks with a blowout 39-point third quarter to consign them to their latest loss. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 17 points while Donovan Mitchell had 16 points and Ricky Rubio added 14.

Utah led by as many as 15 points before half-time, going up 44-29 from Mitchell's dunk, but the second quarter closed with the Jazz's lead cut to 44-39 at the break after 10 unanswered Rockets points, who remain on track for the best win-loss record in their history.

Houston finally overtook Utah in the third quarter as the Jazz went through another offensive dry spell, going without a point in the final 4min 9sec of the quarter.

The Rockets put together a 16-4 run extending into the fourth quarter, culminating in a basket from Mbah a Moute, and took a 77-65 lead with 9min 18sec left.

Mbah a Moute kept Utah from gaining ground late in the game and his clutch play was capped by a three-pointer with 1min 23sec left for a 94-82 Houston lead.

"That was a big grind-out game for us. We expect Luc to take and make those shots. We trust each other," Paul said.

In New York, the Knicks put up a surprising fight against NBA champions the Golden State Warriors in the first half on Monday, sneaking into the locker room with a 64-63 lead at Madison Square Garden.

But the visitors reclaimed the lead 41 seconds into the second half, and a subsequent 11-0 run started what would be a routine third quarter for the Warriors.


  • 39-18

    Golden State's third-quarter spurt that turned the game around in New York.


    in 11 Knicks' losses as their record worsens to 24-38.

They outscored the Knicks, who lost for the 10th time in 11 games, 39-18 in the period en route to an eventual 125-111 victory, which ended with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant cheering on their team-mates from the bench as they sat out the entire fourth quarter.

Golden State's Klay Thompson led all scorers with 26 points on nine-of-13 shooting, while Curry finished with 21 points. Durant had 22 points.

The Rockets (47-13) maintain a half-game Western Conference lead over the Warriors.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Rockets keep race for West top seeding simmering'. Subscribe