James Harden wasn’t quite back in MVP form, yet he was good enough when the Houston Rockets needed him.
Harden scored 25 points, including 11 in a decisive run in the third quarter in his return to the Houston lineup, and the Rockets defeated the host Chicago Bulls 96-88 on Saturday night.
Harden, the NBA’s reigning MVP, had missed three games with a strained left hamstring. He connected for 11 straight points, hitting three threepointers in the process, in a 1:59 span of the third.
“Just playing in a full game, contact and all that, felt like it’s been a minute,” Harden said. “So I just wanted to get out there and just try to be myself. I think I did a pretty good job of that. Too many turnovers (eight), but once I get my flow back in rhythm, those will (decrease).”
Harden also had seven assists as the Rockets won their second game in two nights after starting the season 1-5.
Chicago led 59-58 midway through the third quarter before the Rockets and Harden went ahead for good, outscoring the Bulls 21-7 in the period. Lakers 114, Trail Blazers 110: LeBron James had 28 points and seven assists and Los Angeles went on a 16-0 run in the third quarter in its win in Portland. Reserve point guard Rajon Rondo added 17 points and 10 assists for the Lakers. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum each scored 30 points for the Blazers.
Nuggets 103, Jazz 88: Gary Harris scored 20 points and Malik Beasley and Mason Plumlee hit key threepointers in a fourth-quarter flurry as host Denver beat Utah. Jamal Murray scored 19 for the Nuggets, who have won four straight.
Spurs 109, Pelicans 95: DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and 12 rebounds and San Antonio extended visiting New Orleans’ losing streak to five games. Patty Mills had 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to help the Spurs win their fourth straight.
Pacers 102, Celtics 101: Victor Oladipo connected on a three-pointer with 3.4 seconds remaining to lift host Indiana past Boston. Oladipo finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Tyreke Evans added 17 points for the Pacers. Marcus Morris had 23 points and six rebounds for the Celtics, whose fourgame winning streak was snapped. Hawks 123, Heat 118: Trae Young had 24 points and 15 assists as host Atlanta beat Miami. Taurean Prince and Dewayne Dedmon each scored 15 points for the Hawks. Josh Richardson scored 32 points for the Heat.
76ers 109, Pistons 99: Joel Embiid scored 32 of his 39 points in a dominating first half and had 17 rebounds to lead Philadelphia. Embiid made 10 of 18 field-goals attempts and 18 of 23 free-throw attempts to help the 76ers improve to 6-0 at home. Blake Griffin had 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for Detroit.
Hornets 126, Cavaliers 94: Jeremy Lamb had 19 points and eight rebounds as host Charlotte routed Cleveland. J.R. Smith scored 14 points for the Cavaliers.