Harden scores 42 for Rock­ets

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS -

James Harden scored a play­off ca­reer-high 42 points, Dwight Howard had his post­sea­son best with 26 re­bounds and the Hous­ton Rock­ets beat the Dal­las Mav­er­icks, 130-128, on Fri­day night in Dal­las for a 3-0 lead in their first-round se­ries.

The most-valu­able-player can­di­date played a dom­i­nat­ing role af­ter de­fer­ring to Howard and role play­ers in the first two wins, putting the Rock­ets on the verge of their first play­off se­ries victory since Howard joined Harden two years ago.

The high-scor­ing game was Dal­las’ first with­out ef­fec­tively ban­ished point guard Ra­jon Rondo, and Monta El­lis had a play­off ca­reer-high 34 points to match Dirk Now­itzki.

But El­lis missed a po­ten­tial ty­ing jumper just be­fore the buzzer, leav­ing Dal­las to face a fourth straight year with­out win­ning a post­sea­son se­ries since tak­ing the fran­chise’s first cham­pi­onship.

Game 4 is Sun­day at Dal­las. No team has ever ral­lied from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA post­sea­son se­ries.

Harden set his play­off ca­reer high and hit 40 points with a three-point play on a layup af­ter Dal­las had cut an 11-point fourth-quar­ter deficit to one.

Af­ter Harden fouled Now­itzki on a three-point at­tempt and the big Ger­man hit all the free throws, Harden hit a jumper over Tyson Chan­dler. The ball rat­tled off the rim, hit the back­board and dropped back in for a 129-126 lead with 12.7 sec­onds re­main­ing.

The Mav­er­icks had one more chance, trail­ing by two with 6.7 sec­onds left, but El­lis wasn’t close, miss­ing to the right of the rim.

Howard had 14 of Hous­ton’s 23 re­bounds in the first half and helped on the of­fen­sive end in the fourth quar­ter, get­ting seven of his 13 points.

at Wash­ing­ton 106, Toronto 99: John Wall drew cho­ruses of “M-V-P!” from the crowd by pro­duc­ing 19 points and 15 as­sists, 37year-old Paul Pierce hit two key late three-point­ers, and the Wiz­ards closed in on a first-round play­off sweep by beat­ing the Rap­tors.

Six Wiz­ards scored in dou­ble fig­ures, in­clud­ing Marcin Gor­tat, who had 24 points and 13 re­bounds. Pierce’s 18 points were high­lighted by one three-pointer that capped a 10-2 run with 2 min­utes left, and an­other with 16.3 sec­onds re­main­ing af­ter Toronto got within three points.

Af­ter the sec­ond, Pierce turned to the stands with arms aloft, nod­ded and yelled, “That’s why I’m here!”

The Wiz­ards lead the best-of-seven Eastern Con­fer­ence se­ries, 3-0, and can end it Sun­day, when they host Game 4.

Tony Gu­tier­rez As­so­ci­ated Press

HOUS­TON’S Dwight Howard scores over Dal­las’ Al-Farouq Aminu dur­ing the first half of Game 3. Howard fin­ished with 13 points and 26 re­bounds.

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