HOUSTON (Texas) • Two of the most efficient offences in the National Basketball Association (NBA) offered a wondrous showcase befitting their reputations on Thursday before crunch time unfolded. Someone needed to get down in the muck and make a play that was not quite so pretty.
While James Harden produced a triple-double and Clint Capela recorded two critical baskets in the waning moments, it was the grunt work of P.J. Tucker that helped the Houston Rockets hold on for a 117-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Toyota Center.
The Rockets (9-3) went nearly seven minutes without a field goal after securing a 13-point lead on a Tucker three-pointer with 8min 2sec left. That enabled the Cavaliers (5-7) to fashion a 13-1 run, with LeBron James starting the rally with a three-pointer and Jeff Green ending it with a pull-up jumper.
But, when Harden and the Rockets appeared tired, Tucker saved them by outworking everyone. He recovered a missed lay-up by Harden before feeding him a pass. The guard in turn tossed a pass to the rim that Capela finished with a dunk through a Green foul.
Capela completed the three-point play for a 115-111 lead and added a second-chance basket with 10.7 seconds to play.
"The key was obviously what P.J. did for us on the offensive rebounds," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "P.J. got every loose ball on the ground."
Harden tallied a game-high 35 points to complement his 11 rebounds, 13 assists and five steals. But he grew weary in the fourth, missing seven of eight shots while the Rockets shot 27.3 per cent in the period. Tucker, who had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Capela (19 points, 13 rebounds) carried the short-handed Rockets when their offence faded.
"We could have had a couple dagger threes that we missed, but we did find another way to win the game," Harden said.
James led the Cavaliers with 33 points and seven assists, though he committed nine of the team's 19 turnovers. Green scored 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting off the bench for Cleveland, who shot 55.6 per cent but were outrebounded 45-26.
The Rockets also hit 16 of 46 three-point tries and added 36 free-throw attempts compared to the Cavaliers' 14.
"You've got to have those defensive rebounds, especially when you're coming from behind," James said. "It's just tough when they shoot 45 threes a game and then they go to the free-throw line as well. A couple of things just didn't go our way tonight." \
PORTLAND V BROOKLYN
Singtel TV Ch110, 11am