Pictured: James Harden
Source: Harry How / Getty Image North America

Preview: Mavericks at Rockets

James Harden will try to push his streak of 30-point games to 30 in a row when he leads the Houston Rockets into a home matchup with the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. Harden continued his phenomenal scoring run with 42 points in Saturday’s 117-112 loss to Oklahoma City, leaving him two 30-point games away from tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest such streak in NBA history.

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The 29-year-old Harden is averaging exactly 30 points in two meetings with the Mavericks this season, but both of them were losses and the team knows it sometimes needs more than his scoring punch to get by. “We have to be consistent for four quarters,” Harden told reporters Saturday after his team fell to 19-9 at home. “It’s pretty simple.” Dallas has taken six of its last nine games after a furious rally gave it a 102-101 win over Portland at home Sunday. Luka Doncic scored 28 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 24 and the Mavericks held the Trail Blazers to just nine fourth-quarter points to finish 2-1 on their three-game homestand.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, FS Southwest (Dallas), AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston)

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (26-29): Doncic played the entire fourth quarter Sunday and scored 13 points while helping Dallas keep Portland from putting up a single point for nearly seven minutes during one stretch. “Luka was great in the fourth,” coach Rick Carlisle told the media of his star rookie. “Not only did he score and make plays but he had a lot of big rebounds down the stretch. I don’t normally play him a whole quarter but when we began to make the push early in the fourth it was just one of these times that he was going to have to finish if you’re going to have a chance.” Carlisle also gave credit to Hardaway Jr., who had a total of 24 points on 10-of-28 shooting through his first two games with Dallas following last week’s blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (32-23): While Harden piles up the milestones, newcomer Kenneth Faried is quietly working on an impressive streak of his own with four straight double-doubles. He shot 8-of-11 from the floor in the loss to the Thunder and is hitting 63 percent of his shots in 10 games since joining Houston last month. Point guard Chris Paul seems to be rounding into shape roughly two weeks after returning from a hamstring strain and fell an assist shy of a triple-double against Oklahoma City.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Doncic was one of six Mavericks in double figures with 21 points in a 107-104 win over Houston in the last meeting.

2. Harden averages 7.8 assists but has a total of only two over his last two games.

3. Mavericks PF Dwight Powell has hit 50 percent of his shots or better in nine straight games.

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Photo: James Harden
Source: Getty Image North America

Preview: Bucks at Rockets

The Houston Rockets just took out the top team in the Western Conference and will try to prove once again that it can knock off one of the best in the East when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The Rockets won for the 12th time in the last 14 games when James Harden put together another virtuoso offensive performance in a 125-113 triumph over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

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Harden reached 30 points in his 13th straight game with 32 on Monday but did his best work passing out of double teams while handing out 14 assists. “They for sure trapped me, for sure had two on the ball every possession,” Harden told reporters. “It feels like every single game, I see a double-team or two on the ball mostly every possession. So, I’ve got to figure out ways to impact the game, figure out ways to not only score, but get guys involved.” The Bucks own the fewest losses in the NBA (11) and are winners of 10 of their last 12 after finishing off a six-game homestand with a 114-102 triumph over Utah. Milwaukee will play 13 of its next 18 games on the road leading into the All-Star break and is a middling 9-7 away from home so far this season.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Wisconsin (Milwaukee), AT&T SportsNet southwest (Houston)

ABOUT THE BUCKS (28-11): Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo led with 30 points and 10 rebounds on Monday despite being guarded by 7-1 center Rudy Gobert. “Obviously, he’s one of the best defenders in the league,” Antetokounmpo told reporters. “Defensive player of the year last year. He can contest every shot. But I was trying to get to my spots. Trying to shoot over him. He’s tough.” Antetokounmpo helped make up for an off night from point guard Eric Bledsoe, who was held to six points on 3-of-11 shooting while committing six turnovers against Utah.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (23-16): The beneficiary of several of Harden’s assists on Monday was center Clint Capela, who scored a career-high 31 points on 13-of-18 shooting. “From the defense that they gave us, whenever I’m under the rim and you put a little on me, what’s going to happen is that 99 (to) 100 percent of the time, I’m gonna dunk the ball,” Capela told reporters. “So, that’s what happened tonight. I did a good job of finishing aggressive under the rim. That’s the kind of game that I wanted to have. It means a lot.” Capela is averaging a career-high 17.6 points on 63.9 percent shooting while anchoring the defense and grabbing 12.8 rebounds.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Rockets PF P.J. Tucker went 7-of-11 from 3-point range on Monday en route to 21 points after going scoreless in a loss at Portland in the previous game.

2. Bucks C Thon Maker scored a season-high 15 points in 18 minutes off the bench on Monday.

3. Houston took both meetings last season.

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Photo: James Harden
Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Preview: Thunder at Rockets

The Houston Rockets look to record their seventh victory in the past eight games when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day. The Rockets can move a season-best three games over .500 with a win against the Thunder, who own the third-best record in the Western Conference.

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Reigning MVP James Harden had 39 points and 10 assists in Saturday’s 108-101 home triumph over the San Antonio Spurs and is averaging 39.7 points while topping 30 in six straight games. “That’s what we do, we do it at a high level,” Harden told reporters after the victory. “We shoot the ball, we shoot it with confidence. Some are going to go in, some aren’t. That’s the way we play.” Oklahoma City had a four-game winning streak halted as it fell 114-112 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Thunder star forward Paul George registered 31 points and 11 rebounds against Minnesota for his fifth 30-point effort in six games and he is averaging 34.3 points during the stretch.

TV: 3 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT THE THUNDER (21-11): Point guard Russell Westbrook recorded triple-doubles in three of the past four games after contributing 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Timberwolves. Westbrook has nine triple-doubles this season and 113 in his career but had failed to reach the 20-point mark in five straight games before a 10-of-19 shooting performance against Minnesota. Westbrook averaged 29 points and 9.3 assists in three games against the Rockets in 2017-18 but missed this season’s first matchup due to an ankle injury.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (17-15): Center Clint Capela had 21 points and a season-best 23 rebounds in the win over San Antonio for his third 20-point outing in the past five games. The 24-year-old has 22 double-doubles this season and his second 20-rebound effort of the campaign impressed shooting guard Eric Gordon. “He’s young and athletic, so that really helps, but he’s one of the best rebounders in the league,” Gordon told reporters. “We need him to continue to do that. With all these long shots and him being around the rim all the time, we definitely need him to be our rim protector and get a lot of rebounds. We need him to be big like that all the time.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Thunder limited Harden to 19 points while posting a 98-80 home win on Nov. 8.

2. Houston signed G Austin Rivers to help provide backcourt depth with PG Chris Paul (hamstring) sidelined for two to four weeks.

3. Oklahoma City C Steven Adams collected just four rebounds against Minnesota after averaging 16.5 over the previous two contests.

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Preview: Rockets at Jazz

The Utah Jazz established a season high for points in their last outing and look to keep the offense churning when they host the Houston Rockets on Thursday. Utah has won four of its last six games and knocked down a franchise-record 20 3-pointers in Tuesday’s 139-105 trouncing of the visiting San Antonio Spurs.

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The Jazz set their 3-point mark in just 33 attempts and 10 different players connected on at least one from behind the arc during the impressive victory. “When you make a lot of 3s, it definitely helps for sure,” Utah star guard Donovan Mitchell told reporters after making four 3-pointers. “But just continuing to drive the ball, finding guys on the perimeter, finding the big fella (Rudy Gobert) for the lob, whatever it may be, just making the right play was huge for us.” The Rockets were at the other end of the spectrum in Monday’s 103-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves as they scored just 29 second-half points, including nine in the fourth quarter. “For whatever reason, the second half we played without any kind of spirit or energy,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. “Things were going great in the first half, and then at the end of the first half we let them come back.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, AT&T Sportsnet Southwest (Houston)

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (11-12): Houston had topped 100 points in 11 straight games prior to the flat second half that occurred in the opener of a three-game road swing. “In the second half, we just laid an egg,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon told reporters. “They had everything going. You could tell by their confidence. They just played better defensively.” Star guard James Harden scored 29 points for his 13th consecutive 20-point outing and 18th of the campaign while center Clint Capela scored 24 to top 20 for the sixth time in the past 11 games.

ABOUT THE JAZZ (12-13): Swingman Kyle Korver played his first home game of his second stint with the club and performed in style by making 3-of-4 from 3-point range and scoring 15 points in 15 minutes against the Spurs. Korver was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers for guard Alec Burks and two second-round draft picks and he expressed excitement for being back in the arena he played in from 2007-10. “It was a great first night back,” Korver told reporters after the contest. “I have a lot of good memories of this place. We played really good basketball. The ball was moving. We were playing for each other.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Mitchell scored 38 points as the Jazz posted a 100-89 road victory on Oct. 24 to snap a four-game losing streak against the Rockets in the regular season.

2. Houston PG Chris Paul scored a season-low five points on 1-of-8 shooting versus the Timberwolves.

3. Utah PG Ricky Rubio is averaging 16 points on 19-of-34 shooting over the past three games.

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Preview: Rockets at Timberwolves

The Houston Rockets are back to streaking in the right direction and are coming off back-to-back dominating wins over the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls. The Rockets will try to make it three in a row when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

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Houston surrendered an average of 124 points during a four-game slide but was stronger on the defensive end Friday and Saturday while holding the Spurs and Bulls to 105 points apiece. The turnaround on defense coincides with the healthy return of point guard Chris Paul, who sat out three games with leg soreness before returning on Friday and notching a double-double in back-to-back games. The Timberwolves had a four-game winning streak come to an end in a 118-109 setback at home to the Boston Celtics on Saturday. “We had some miscues and made some mistakes. It was our fault,” Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters. “They’re a great team and made us pay for those mistakes.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), FS North (Minnesota)

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (11-11): Houston star James Harden scored 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 30 minutes on Saturday and is averaging 35.4 points over the last seven games. Harden needed to play an average of 29 minutes in the last two games with the Rockets rounding into form from a health perspective and took some time after Saturday’s win to extol the virtues of a short injury list. “Everyone is much more efficient when we’re together and we have a full roster, as you can see these last few games,” Harden told reporters.

ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (11-12): Minnesota is leaning on former MVP and current sixth man Derrick Rose for leadership, and the veteran is not afraid to get on his younger teammates. “At this stage in my life and my career, that’s what I’m here for, to be able to express how I feel, express what guys want to say but don’t say it,” Rose told reporters. “It’s easy for me to communicate with people. They listen to me. I guess they trust me and believe in me.” Rose is leading the team on the court as well and scored 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting in Saturday’s loss – the fourth time in the last six games that he scored at least 20 points.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Timberwolves SF Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting Saturday, snapping a string of five straight games in which he finished with fewer points than attempted field goals.

2. Rockets C Clint Capela recorded a double-double in eight of the last nine games.

3. The teams are meeting for the first time since Houston knocked off Minnesota in five games in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

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Preview: Rockets at Spurs

The Houston Rockets are one of the league’s biggest disappointments and they will look to halt a four-game slide when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Friday. Houston has allowed an average of 124 points during the skid and was lambasted 128-108 by the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

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Star guard James Harden isn’t overly concerned about the porous stretch as he pointed out the team endured a four-game losing streak earlier in the season before winning eight of its next 10. “We’ve done it already,” Harden told reporters after Wednesday’s loss. “We went through a tough stretch, and then we regrouped and won five in a row – and we looked really good. We’ve just got to figure it out. We’ve got a lot of new guys, and it’s only 20 games into the season. We’ve got 60 more to go.” San Antonio is also coming off a forgettable outing as it scored nine second-quarter points while being walloped 128-89 by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. “I thought we looked a bit lethargic in a lot of ways,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters of Wednesday’s defeat in the finale of a four-game road excursion. “Maybe part of it was the trip, but everybody has these trips. It’s no excuse.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), KENS (San Antonio)

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (9-11): Harden recorded 25 points and season highs of 17 assists and 11 rebounds against the Mavericks for his first triple-double of the season and 36th in his career. But his productivity couldn’t keep Houston in a game in which point guard Chris Paul (hamstring) missed his third straight contest and the bench got outscored 61-25. “Obviously, it’s a problem,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters of the quality of the team’s reserves. “It’s something that I know that the front office tried to address. They’re going to do the best they can. No blame going around – it’s just the way it is.”

ABOUT THE SPURS (10-11): The San Antonio starters combined for only 35 points while being routed by the Timberwolves with power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan leading the way with 10 apiece. DeRozan’s output was a season low and he was greatly disturbed by the club’s poor showing. “It seemed like we let them do whatever they wanted,” DeRozan told reporters afterward. “We just weren’t good at all. … You don’t want to go out there and get embarrassed.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Aldridge recorded 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Spurs posted a 96-89 home win over the Rockets on Nov. 10.

2. Houston swingman Gerald Green (ankle) could miss his third straight game.

3. Popovich revealed that C Pau Gasol (foot) – who will miss his 13th straight game – has a stress fracture and will be sidelined indefinitely.

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Preview: Warriors at Rockets

The Golden State Warriors are fighting through some in-house drama while trying to downplay a dustup between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green that ended with Green getting suspended by the team for a game. Green and Durant will try to work together again when the Warriors visit the Houston Rockets on Thursday in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals.

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A public shouting match on the court during Monday’s overtime loss at the Los Angeles Clippers spilled over into the locker room, which led to Green being suspended for Tuesday’s 110-103 home win over the Atlanta Hawks. “I’m gonna keep that in-house,” Durant told reporters of his interactions with Green after scoring 29 points to lead the team on Tuesday. “That’s what we do here. I mean, obviously I know you guys got a job to do, but I’m not trying to give nobody no headlines. What happened, happened. We’re trying to move on — just trying to play basketball.” The Rockets are not the same team that took Golden State to seven games in the Western Conference finals last spring but at least appear to be trending in the right direction with wins in back-to-back games and Carmelo Anthony reportedly on his way out of town. Houston averaged 112 points in wins over the Pacers and Nuggets after failing to reach the century mark in four straight contests.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (12-3): Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson was of the belief that Green and Durant would quickly be able to get back on the same page as long as the team wins. “A win on Thursday,” Thompson told reporters when asked what would defuse the situation. “And a win on Saturday and Sunday. Once we go on a little win streak (the Green-Durant situation) will not matter. And this will be in the past like a ponytail.” The Warriors are operating without superstar point guard Stephen Curry, who will miss at least five more games with a groin injury before being re-evaluated on Nov. 24.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (6-7): The experiment of adding Anthony to the mix quickly fizzled and Houston is trying to move on by tightening up on the defensive end. “It’s going to take time, but we’re getting there,” Rockets star guard James Harden told reporters after Tuesday’s 109-99 triumph over the Nuggets. “If we keep guarding and defending at a high level our offense will come around. Once we put both together, it’s going to get scary.” Harden contributed 22 points and 11 assists in the win but went 2-of-10 from 3-point range and is 11-of-41 from beyond the arc over the last three contests.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors PF Jones Jerebko started in place of Green on Tuesday and collected 14 points and 13 rebounds.

2. Rockets G/F Gerald Green (ankle) sat out the last two games but could return on Thursday.

3. Green averaged 8.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 6.7 assists in last season’s Western Conference finals.

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Preview: Rockets at Nuggets

The Carmelo Anthony saga is in high-drama mode as the Houston Rockets visit the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. Anthony will miss his third straight game due to what the team is terming an “illness” while news reports claim he won’t play again for the Rockets.

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Anthony appears to be done with Houston after averaging 13.4 points over 10 games while struggling to fit in as a reserve for the first time in his career. Close friend Chris Paul of the Rockets said “Melo’s been great, working hard every day,” but the quick decision by the organization to move on speaks volumes. Denver’s stunning 9-1 start has been followed with three straight setbacks and the squad was outclassed 121-114 by the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. “This is our first little bit of adversity, so we have respond,” center Mason Plumlee told reporters. “We have to come out and play really well our next home game.”

TV: 9 p.m. ET, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), Altitude (Denver)

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (5-7): Houston had the offense clicking during Sunday’s 115-103 victory over the Indiana Pacers and guard James Harden poured in a season-best 40 points. Harden connected on eight 3-pointers during the contest and has tallied 25 or more points in four of the last five games. “When we’re like that, we’re going to score a bunch of points,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. “And if … our defense can keep improving then we’re the team that we want to be.”

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (9-4): The Denver slide began with two-point losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets. and coach Michael Malone’s frustration level grew with the loss to the Bucks. “I just hate the fact that the way we’ve closed the games,” Malone told reporters. “Forget the wins and losses. But if somebody’s going to beat you, make them beat you and I feel like we’re really contributing to our own demise right now.” Power forward Paul Millsap had his best game of the season Sunday, making five 3-pointers while registering 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Rockets went 3-0 against the Nuggets last season and have won the past seven meetings.

2. Denver C Nikola Jokic is averaging 28.5 points over the past two games after putting up 5.8 over the previous four outings.

3. Houston C Clint Capela (knee) is expected to play after being injured Sunday but SG Gerald Green (ankle) will miss his second straight game.

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Warriors at Rockets Game 7 Preview

The Golden State Warriors found the form that made them NBA champions in the second half on Saturday and used it to run away with a win and force a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals. The Warriors will try to carry that momentum on the road and earn their fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals when they visit the Houston Rockets on Monday.

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The Rockets jumped out to a 39-22 lead after the first quarter in Game 6 and held a 61-51 edge at the break only to score 25 points in the second half and suffer a 115-86 setback as Golden State exploded behind Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. “We’d like to get off to a better start,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “But we like — we like our formula. We like our defense against these guys, and we feel confident that we can carry this through to Game 7 on the road and continue to make things as difficult as possible on Houston without fouling.” Houston is confident heading home despite the beating it took in the second half on Saturday and the uncertainty surrounding the health of point guard Chris Paul. “If you asked us when we were in the Bahamas this summer, this team together, you know, Western Conference Finals, Game 7 to go to the finals against the Warriors, we’ll take that,” Rockets star James Harden told reporters. “So, nothing changes for us. We know what we have to do.”

TV: 9 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Thompson finished with 35 points and went 9-of-14 from 3-point range in Game 6 as Golden State started to push the pace and move the ball. “I feel like we’re the best team in the world and most fun team in the world to watch when we’re pushing that ball, getting defensive stops and making plays,” Thompson told reporters. “We’ve got too much talent not just to hit singles like coach always says. Trust the next man ahead of us. It will end up working in our favor most of the time.” Thompson added four steals to his performance and his teammates credited his work on Harden at the defensive end for sparking the offense.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS: Paul sat out Game 6 with a hamstring injury suffered in the final minute of Game 5 and remains uncertain for Game 7. Houston committed 21 turnovers without their point guard on the floor in Game 6, including nine by Harden, who finished with 32 points and nine assists but continued a trend of poor shooting from beyond the arc with a 4-of-12 effort. “There’s no pressure,” Harden told reporters of Game 7. “It’s an opportunity, though, an opportunity that we all are excited to be a part of. Game 7 at our house. That’s what we worked the entire regular season for, is homecourt advantage. We’re going to come out and we’re going to be ready.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors SF Andre Iguodala (knee) sat out the last three games and is questionable for Game 7.

2. Houston SG Gerald Green is 6-of-9 from 3-point range over the last two games.

3. Golden State PF Draymond Green collected 10 rebounds, nine assists, five blocks and four steals in Game 6.

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Warriors at Rockets Game 5

Staring at a 10-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and a 3-1 series hole, the Houston Rockets came alive and reestablished homecourt advantage in the Western Conference finals. The Rockets will try to maintain that advantage and carry some momentum back when they host the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 on Thursday.

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Houston allowed 126 points on 52.2 percent shooting in a 41-point loss in Game 3 but came out with a renewed passion on the defensive end in Game 4 and held the Warriors to 12 points in the fourth quarter to earn a 95-92 victory. “That was the last piece for us to get over the hump and becoming one of the best teams in the league,” swingman Trevor Ariza told reporters after the win. “How we defend, how we pay attention to detail and how we go about playing defense. Tonight, in the fourth quarter when it mattered, we got stops. It let us get back in the game, it let us take the lead and it let us win.” Golden State coach Steve Kerr blamed fatigue for his team’s poor fourth-quarter performance but conceded that the Rockets were the better team down the stretch. “I felt like in the fourth quarter we just ran out of gas,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Scored 12 points. Tried to buy a little rest for our guys, but yeah, they just outplayed us in the fourth and they earned it.”

TV: 9 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Golden State held Houston to 39 percent shooting in Game 4 but surrendered 34 points in the second quarter and 25 in the fourth, and the inconsistency is a matter of concern. “I think we just stop trusting our defense at certain points in the game,” power forward Draymond Green told reporters. “We’ve got to trust our defense, trust the game plan, and stick with it.” The Warriors shot 39.3 percent from the floor in the loss and All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson was held to 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting, giving him an average of 10.3 points over the last three games after going off for 28 in Game 1.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS: Houston needs two wins over the next three games to knock the Warriors off their three-year reign as Western Conference champs and gets to play two of those three at home, though that might not matter. “We knew we needed it, but we said all along with both teams home court doesn’t really matter,” point guard Chris Paul told reporters after the Game 4 victory. “Both teams have the ability to win on the road. We had to prove that to ourselves. Weathering the storm, the runs that they made, and knowing that now we get a chance to go back home, we knew we had to get at least one win here. We got it, so now it’s a three-game series.” Paul battled a foot injury in Game 4 but turned in his best scoring effort of the series with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors SF Andre Iguodala (leg) sat out Game 4 and is questionable for Thursday.

2. Houston SG Eric Gordon is 3-of-16 from 3-point range over the last two games.

3. Golden State SF Kevin Durant recorded his first double-double of the series with 27 points and 12 rebounds on Tuesday.

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Warriors at Rockets Game 2 Preview

The Golden State Warriors flashed supreme form in the opener of the Western Conference finals and look to take a 2-0 lead when they visit the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. The Warriors outscored the Rockets by 13 points in the second half while recording a 119-106 win in Game 1.

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Forward Kevin Durant scored 37 points and shooting guard Klay Thompson added 28 as second-seeded Golden State was in top form while outclassing James Harden and the top-seeded Rockets. “I don’t know if we’re at our peak,” Durant told reporters. “I think we could be better. I mean, the stakes are high. We’re playing the Western Conference finals against the best team in the league, the No. 1 seed, an MVP on their team. So I think everybody just wants to enjoy this time.” Harden recorded 41 points and seven assists in the opener but didn’t receive enough help from the supporting cast. “We’re all in this together,” Harden told reporters. “It doesn’t matter who has a bad game or who is missing shots. … Keep shooting your shot and being aggressive. We got this far doing that and having that mindset, so we’re just going to continue it.”

TV: 9 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Durant was 14-of-27 shooting in Game 1 as Golden State repeatedly isolated him to take advantage of mismatches with Houston defenders. “We want to keep the ball moving, but obviously Kevin is the ultimate luxury because a play can break down and you just throw him the ball,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “He can get you a bucket as well as anybody on Earth. This is why anybody would want him on their team. You think about a couple years ago, and we’re in the Finals and we couldn’t quite get over the hump. Kevin is the guy that puts you over the hump.” Point guard Stephen Curry was solid all-around with 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds as his team’s third-leading scorer for the contest.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS: Harden reached 40 points for the third time this postseason and coach Mike D’Antoni joked after Game 1 that he might need to ask Harden to score 55 in Game 2. He broke out of a 3-point shooting funk by making 5-of-9 attempts after being just 6-of-32 over the final four contests of the second-round series against the Utah Jazz. Point guard Chris Paul had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the opener but only had three assists as the Rockets were unable to crisply moving the ball in the halfcourt offense.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Both teams made 13 3-pointers in Game 1 but the Warriors had an 18-3 edge in fast-break points.

2. Houston C Clint Capela had 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the opener.

3. Golden State PF Draymond Green scored just five points in Game 1 but also contributed nine rebounds and nine assists.

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Jazz at Rockets Game 2 Preview

The Houston Rockets look to take a 2-0 lead when they host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal series. Star guard James Harden scored 41 points in Houston’s series-opening 110-96 victory to continue his season-long assault of the Jazz.

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Harden averaged 34.3 points in four meetings with the Utah in the regular season — including a 56-point outing — and the defensive-minded Jazz once again had no answers on slowing down the MVP candidate. “You can put a list of about 28 other teams that don’t have an answer, either,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. “There’s no answer. He might play bad because he’s human, but there’s nothing that you can conceivably come up with to stop him.” Utah isn’t fretting over the Game 1 loss as it also lost the opener of its first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder before recovering to win in six games. “We were in the exact same situation,” Jazz small forward Joe Ingles told reporters. “Everyone had written us off after Game 1, probably the way they have now. We have a great group. We love being able to have the time to watch the film and make some adjustments.”

TV:
 8 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE JAZZ: Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell is picking up a large portion of the ball-handling with veteran point guard Ricky Rubio (hamstring) sidelined and he committed four turnovers to go with 9-of-22 shooting while scoring 21 points in the opener. The point total was Mitchell’s lowest in seven games this postseason and he was also hampered by a sore ankle, which he insists won’t be a problem in Game 2. “My head was never down, and I don’t think my teammates’ heads were down,” Mitchell told reporters. “It’s one game out of a long series.”

ABOUT THE ROCKETS:
 Harden had nothing to reveal for why he typically enjoys success against a team that ranked sixth in scoring defense at 102.4 during the regular season. “For the most part, I’m going to do what I do,” Harden told reporters. “Offensively I think this team, us, we’re different. We’ve seen so many different defenses throughout the year that have prepared us for this moment, whether it’s (Utah center Rudy) Gobert being back at the rim or teams switching or whatever. We’ve seen pretty much it all, all year.” Harden received complementary help from point guard Chris Paul (17 points), center Clint Capela (16 points, 12 rebounds) and forward PJ Tucker (15 points) in the opener.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. It remains unclear whether Rubio will return later in the series — the length of it would be one of the factors.

2. Utah reserve F Jae Crowder had 21 points and five 3-pointers in the series opener, his second-best totals in each category this postseason.

3. Houston reserve SG Eric Gordon missed all six of his shots in Game 1 and is shooting just 31.4 percent from the field in the postseason.

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Posted in NBA

2018 NBA Playoffs

Second-round preview

With the second round under way, let’s dive in straight into the series on hand.

Play our NBA Playoffs Contests 

Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers have knocked the Toronto Raptors out of the playoffs the last two years but the Raptors are finally the favored team and hope to play like it when the teams begin their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup.

Enter the TOR/CLE contest

Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers

The Boston Celtics needed everything they had to survive a seven-game, first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks. Their reward is an Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with one of the hottest teams in the league in the rested Philadelphia 76ers.

Enter the BOS/PHI contest

Houston Rockets vs Utah Jazz

The Jazz vs. Rockets series is a classic matchup. The league’s best offense vs. the league’s best defense.

Enter the HOU/UTA contest

Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans

One team was supposed to be here all along. The other was two regular-season losses away from missing the playoffs and setting into motion a major overhaul that likely would have included firing its coach and front office, and possibly would have stretched into a trade involving one of the league’s best players. But the stunning sweep of Portland by the Pelicans earned them a spot in the conference semifinals for the first time in a decade. It surely saved the job of head coach Alvin Gentry, and likely the job of GM Dell Demps, too. That means teams anticipating a Pels fire sale can cross off Anthony Davis from their wish lists.

Enter the GSW/NOP contest

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Posted in NBA