HARDEN SPARKS ROCKETS
Houston star records another tripledouble in victory over Cavaliers
JAMES Harden’s 16th triple-double of the season led the Houston Rockets to victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday as Boston sent Chicago spinning to their fifth consecutive defeat.
Harden topped the scoring with 38 points as the Rockets improved to 46-21 to strengthen their grip on third spot in the Western Conference standings in Texas with a 117-112 win.
Harden was one of six Houston players to make double figures, with Ryan Anderson the next top scorer with 16 points, while Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon both weighed in with 13 apiece.
Cleveland, who fell to 43-22, were reliant on LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to provide the bulk of their points.
James led the Cavs scoring with 30 points while Irving weighed with 28. Only one other Cleveland player — Richard Jefferson with 16 — made double figures at Houston’s Toyota Centre.
With the exception of James and Irving, a weary Cavs line-up looked to be suffering after-effects from Saturday’s road game in Orlando, where no fewer than seven players had posted double figures.
In Boston, the Celtics crushed visiting Chicago 100-80 to leave the Bulls reflecting on a fifth straight loss.
Avery Bradley had 17 points and grabbed six rebounds while Al Horford contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Celtics, who scored the first 13 points and cruised to victory.
The Celtics improved to 42-25, just behind Washington (41-24) and leaders Cleveland. The Bulls slid to 31-35, 10th in the East and 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff berth.
The Bulls managed only 26 points in the first half, the fewest allowed the first two quarters by Boston all season.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was satisfied with Boston’s ruthless approach against a side struggling for confidence.
“That’s an easy game to kind of make an excuse about and not play the best you can,” Stevens said. “I thought our guys came out doing the right thing.”
Added Isaiah Thomas: “We played hard, we got loose balls, we defended multiple actions.”
Bulls star Dwyane Wade, who finished with only eight points, said Chicago were still “experimenting.”
“As I said the other day, we’re going to take some lumps. Some of them are going to be big lumps. Some of them going to be small lumps. Tonight was a big one,” said Wade, who was coy when asked about the hunger of his teammates to reach the playoffs.
“You have to ask each individual that question. I can’t answer for everybody. I’m here, I’ll show up the next game. Try to do what I can.”
RESULTS: Philadelphia 118 LA Lakers 116, Houston 117 Cleveland 112, Portland 110 Phoenix 101, Brooklyn 120 NY Knicks 112, Indiana 102 Miami 98, Boston 100 Chicago 80.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (left) is guarded by Houston Rockets’ Patrick Beverley and Nene Hilario at Toyota Centre on Sunday.