Harden, Giannis spark Rockets, Bucks to big NBA wins

Agence France-Presse
Harden, Giannis spark Rockets, Bucks to big NBA wins
MVP contenders Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden both flirt with triple-double performances

WASHINGTON, USA – NBA scoring leaders James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo powered their teams to decisive NBA triumphs while the Detroit Pistons snapped a five-game losing streak. 

Houston star Harden had 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists as the Rockets beat the visiting New Orleans and rookie star Zion Williamson, 117-109 on Sunday, February 2 (Monday, February 3, Manila time).

Harden, on pace for his third NBA scoring title in a row with 35.6 points a game, hit 12-of-24 shots from the floor, 7-of-15 from 3-point range, and all 9 of his free throws.

“We want to finish these games up before the break and come back with some momentum,” Harden said.

“When we hit our stride, it’s going to be pretty scary. We’re still trying to find it and we will.”

Antetokounmpo scored 30 points, exactly his season scoring average, and churned out 19 rebounds and 9 assists to spark the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks over the visiting Phoenix Suns, 129-108.

Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks, who improved the NBA’s best record to 42-7, while Devin Booker led the Suns with 32 points.

“We all depend on each other and we just want to continue to get better each night,” said Bucks’ Brook Lopez, who had 17 points and 9 blocked shots.

The Rockets, outrebounded 63-43, used a smaller lineup with center Clint Capela out, taking full advantage of the speed, passing, and playmaking skills of Harden and Russell Westbrook, who put up 22 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds.

“Be healthy and continue to keep our good spirit up, we’ll be all right,” Harden said.

The Rockets, 5th in the Western Conference at 31-18, committed only 7 turnovers compared to 21 by the Pelicans, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds from Williamson.

The highly touted NBA newcomer played a season-high 32 minutes after making his debut only two weeks ago due to a knee injury that sidelined him for 3 months.

“Beast,” Harden said of Williamson. “He has a feel for the game. He’s strong. He’s going to be really great.”

The Pelicans, led by 28 points and 12 rebounds from Brandon Ingram, went 10-of-33 from three-point range, missing their last 33-point shots after the middle of the 3rd quarter.

“They play at a very high pace, very fast and they put up a lot of threes,” Harden said. “We just had to keep up with them, make sure we contain their dribble penetration and offensively just do what we do.”

Andre Drummond scored 21 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as the Detroit Pistons rallied from 21 points down early to defeat the visiting Denver Nuggets, 128-123, in overtime.

Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 20 points while Detroit reserve Bruce Brown added 19 as 7 Pistons scored in double figures.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic of Serbia had a triple-double with a game-high 39 points plus 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a losing cause as Denver fell to 34-16, 3rd in the West.

At 18-33, Detroit stands 11th in the Eastern Conference, 4 games behind Orlando for the final playoff spot.

Champs win streak at 11

The defending champion Toronto Raptors, led by 31 points from reserve Terence Davis, stretched their win streak to 11 games by defeating the visiting Chicago Bulls, 129-102.

At 36-14, the Raptors have the third-best record in the NBA, trailing only the Bucks and the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers.

Cameroon star Pascal Siakam scored 17 points and grabbed 9 rebounds for the Raptors. Thaddeus Young led Chicago with 21 points. – Rappler.com

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