Harden, Rockets rout Spurs 125-104 to tie series

Harden, Rockets rout Spurs 125-104 to tie series

HOUSTON — After fighting through a terrible chest cold for the last few days, James Harden finally felt like himself on Sunday night.

“I can finally breathe,” Harden said.

And the Houston Rockets can, too, after his performance helped them rebound from consecutive losses to beat the San Antonio Spurs 125-104 and tie the Western Conference semifinal at 2-2.

Harden scored 28 points and Eric Gordon added 22 as the Rockets never trailed and used hot 3-point shooting to pull away in the third quarter.

“I think our energy was just up no matter what,” Harden said. “They went on runs. They cut the deficit down … but no matter, what we just stayed with it.”

Game 5 is Tuesday night in San Antonio.

Jonathon Simmons had 17 points for the Spurs, and Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 apiece.

Houston made 22 3-pointers in a blowout win in Game 1, but had struggled from long-range in its two losses. The Rockets’ 3-point shooting, a hallmark of their success in the regular season, got back on track Sunday when they made 19 of 43, led by six from Gordon.

The Rockets led by 15 entering the fourth quarter and immediately padded the lead when Gordon made a 3-pointer to open the period. Simmons made a 3 on the other end before Gordon struck again with his sixth 3-pointer to leave the Rockets up 97-79.

The Spurs were unable to cut into the lead after that and both teams had mostly backups on the court by the midpoint of the period with the game out of hand.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich pointed to one big reason to explain why his team struggled Sunday night.

“Our bible begins with transition defence, and if it’s not there, then we’re just not ready to go,” he said. “If you had seen clips of our transition D (Sunday), you would trade all the players and fire me by the end of the game. It was that bad.”

Houston’s offence bounced back in a big way after the team had been held to below 100 points in each of the last two games after failing to reach the mark only five times in the regular season.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was impressed with how his team corrected the mistakes it made in the last two games in this one.

“This is a big stage they did it on,” he said. “We have a lot of work left, but there’s no reason why we can’t go down to San Antonio and repeat the performance.”

The offence was helped by a more balanced scoring attack with seven players scoring in double figures after only three Rockets scored more than 10 points in Game 3. Harden had 12 assists after managing just five in the last game and added five rebounds.

The Rockets were up by five early in the third quarter before using an 8-2 run to make it 70-59 with about eight minutes left in the quarter.

Harden was shaken up soon after that when he banged his left knee into Patty Mills as he attempted to drive to the basket. He fell to the court grabbing his knee as Houston called a timeout and trainers rushed to him. But there was no need for alarm, as he shook off the injury and returned after the timeout to make a 3-pointer seconds later.

It was the first of three straight 3-pointers for the Rockets in a 9-2 run that made it 79-61 midway through the quarter.

San Antonio scored the next eight points, with six from Aldridge, to cut it to 79-69 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third.

Houston still had a 10-point lead late in the quarter before closing out the third with an 8-3 run that pushed it to 91-76 entering the fourth. Ryan Anderson wrapped up the scoring in that quarter with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Rookie Dejounte Murray had eight points in his second game in the starting lineup since Tony Parker suffered a season-ending leg injury in Game 3. … Pau Gasol had eight points and seven rebounds. … Danny Green finished with just 3 points.

Rockets: Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon sat courtside. … Nene was pulled his left groin in the first quarter and didn’t return. … Trevor Ariza had 16 points for his second straight game with double figures.

BEVERLEY’S LOSS

Houston’s Patrick Beverley played with a heavy heart after learning just before the game that his grandfather Rheese Morris had passed away. Beverley, who finished with 10 points and six assists, wept after the game as he spoke about what Morris meant to him.

“He was there as long as I can remember,” Beverley said wiping his tears away on the shoulder of his shirt. “He was at every single game that he could possibly make it to. It’s a tough one for me.”

THEY SAID IT

Ariza on Houston’s role players stepping up on Sunday night: “In our offence, we need everybody to be aggressive. That’s what we have to do if we want to win this series.”

UP NEXT

After Game 5 in San Antonio on Tuesday, the series shifts back to Houston for Game 6 on Thursday night.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Kristie Rieken, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Midwives open practice in Salmon Arm

New practitioners will deliver babies in home or hospital

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

Merry lottery win for Shuswap man

Five-dollar scratch ticket a $100,000 winner for Sicamous resident

Updated: Wilkie fourth in two events at world cup

A fourth place finish in Canmore for the local cross-country skier.

Vipers down Silverbacks

Vernon goes into Salmon Arm and wins 3-1 in B.C. Hockey League action Friday

Crook’s Corner

A slice of this week’s arts and entertainment happenings in the North Okanagan at a glance

Liberal Hogg wins South Surrey-White Rock byelection over Conservative Findlay

B.C. riding to be represented by non-conservative for first time in decades

Students host dance showcase

Salmon Arm Secondary puts on winter recital Dec. 18 to 20

Writing her way to recovery

Shuswap author finds healing and well-being by writing

Six-year-old boy needs $19,000 a month to treat rare form of arthritis

Mother of sick Sooke boy asks government to help fund treatments

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

Be ladder safe both at work and home

WorkSafeBC wants you to keep safe while hanging those Christmas lights this year

B.C. overdose deaths surpass 1,200

96 people died of illicit drug overdoses in October

Crown appeals stay against Jamie Bacon in Surrey Six killings

B.C.’s prosecution service says judge’s decision reveals ‘errors of law’

Most Read