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James Harden scores 42 in Houston Rockets' OT win over Chicago Bulls

By
Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) scores against the Washington Wizards in the first half at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on November 7, 2016. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) scores against the Washington Wizards in the first half at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on November 7, 2016. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

HOUSTON -- There wasn't a whole lot going right for Houston on offense in the second half of Friday's game against Chicago.

But then James Harden, the player the Rockets expect to carry them in the clutch, took charge and got a lot of help from teammates Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza in the final minutes of regulation that allowed Houston to force overtime.

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That's when Harden took over. Houston's star and MVP candidate scored six of his 42 points in overtime, including the deciding free throws in the final 36 seconds, as the Rockets outlasted the Chicago 121-117 on Friday night at the Toyota Center.

Michael Carter-Williams' layup with 2:19 to play in overtime brought the Bulls within 115-113. He tied the score when he grabbed a rebound after his own missed free throw and nailed a baseline jumper.

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Harden then converted one of two free throws to push the Rockets back in front at 116-115, but Dwyane Wade's turnaround, fadeaway jumper with 53.5 seconds left allowed Chicago to regain the lead.

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Harden answered by making a contested jumper on which he was fouled. He hit the free throw as well and -- after Chicago missed on its offensive end -- nailed two more from the line to give Houston a 121-117 advantage with 16.1 seconds to play.

"Our offense went on a little drought and we just relied on our defense," Harden said. "Our defense won us that game. We can't make 50 threes every night like we want to, but we have to find other ways to win. Tonight was one of those wins."

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Harden also had 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Rockets (37-17). Houston also got 21 points off the bench from Eric Gordon, 14 from Clint Capela and 10 from Trevor Ariza.

Ariza also performed yeoman's work on defense against Wade, especially in the end game.

"Our defense was much better," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Trevor did an incredible job on Dwayne the last few minutes and the guys kept battling. We're still not sharp at all 0 -- we can do better. But you know some games you just gotta find a way to win. We found a way to win."

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The Bulls (25-26) were led by Carter-Williams' season-high 23 points. Taj Gibson added 20, Wade had 19, Doug McDermott scored 12 and Paul Zipser and Nikola Mirotic contributed 11 points apiece.

Brook Lopez had 11 rebounds for Chicago, which played without swingman Jimmy Butler (who was ruled out an hour before the game because of the right heel contusion) and had a two-game winning streak snapped.

"Everything we do runs through Jimmy," Wade said. "He guards the other team's best players and we got to him for the clutch shots at the end of the game. Him being out is not the reason we lost tonight -- we had our chances and didn't pull it out."

The Bulls were ultimately doomed by a 4:14 scoreless drought that included the final 2:45 of regulation and 1:29 of overtime.

"We came out tonight and competed and gave ourselves a chance to win," Wade said. "We had two mental mistakes at the end -- of we compete that way every night we can win more games. The communication has been a lot better as a unit."

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Rajon Rondo's 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds to play gave the Bulls a 26-24 lead after the first 12 minutes. Chicago outshot Houston 54.5 percent to 37.5 percent in the quarter, which included 10 lead changes and two ties with the Rockets.

Harden played the entire quarter and had 11 points thanks to a 3-of-4 start from beyond the arc.

Houston began the second quarter with a 17-8 run as Gordon poured in three 3-pointers in the first four minutes and Corey Brewer pitched in four points. The Bulls went 4:15 of the quarter without a point as Houston turned a 35-33 lead into a 50-33 advantage while Harden was on the bench.

Chicago made a complete turnaround in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, using 14-4 run capped by a dunk by Gibson to within 64-63. A layup with 6:22 left by Carter-Williams allowed the Bulls to tie the score at 67.

A breakaway dunk by McDermott with 25.4 seconds left in the quarter gave Chicago an 81-79 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

The Bulls led 106-98 after a ringing 3-pointer from Wade from beyond the top of the key with 3:20 to play. But Houston gathered itself and put together an 8-2 run to claw back to 108-106 and then forced a Chicago turnover.

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After a timeout, Harden hit a contested step-back jumper to tie the score at 108 with 27.3 seconds left in regulation. Then Ariza stripped the ball from Wade as Chicago worked for a shot to win the game and Harden missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

"I'm proud of the way our guys went out and fought with (Butler) out of the lineup," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "If we continue to compete like we did tonight and stay together we will be fine."

NOTES: The Rockets retired Yao Ming's No. 11 jersey number during an emotional, and extensive, halftime ceremony. Yao was the first overall pick by Houston in 2002 and was the

first player drafted No. 1 who did not play collegiately in the United States. Yao is the sixth Rockets player to have his number retired, joining Clyde Drexler (22), Moses Malone (24), Calvin Murphy (23), Hakeem Olajuwon (34) and Rudy Tomjanovich (45). ... Friday's game is the second of a season-high-tying six-game road trip for Chicago, which entered the game with a 10-14 record away from the United Center. The Bulls went 4-2 on their previous six-game road trip from Nov. 15-25. ... Chicago scored a season-high 128 points its win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday after putting up 121 in the game before vs. Philadelphia on Sunday. ... The Rockets have scored 100 points or more in seven of the past eight games.

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NOTES: The Rockets retired Yao Ming's No. 11 jersey number during an emotional, and extensive, halftime ceremony. Yao was the first overall pick by Houston in 2002 and was the first player drafted No. 1 who did not play collegiately in the United States. Yao is the sixth Rockets player to have his number retired, joining Clyde Drexler (22), Moses Malone (24), Calvin Murphy (23), Hakeem Olajuwon (34) and Rudy Tomjanovich (45). ... Friday's game is the second of a season-high-tying six-game road trip for Chicago, which entered the game with a 10-14 record away from the United Center. The Bulls went 4-2 on their previous six-game road trip from Nov. 15-25. ... Chicago scored a season-high 128 points its win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday after putting up 121 in the game before vs. Philadelphia on Sunday. ... The Rockets have scored 100 points or more in seven of the past eight games.

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