James Harden scores 40 in Houston Rockets' win over Denver Nuggets

By Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange  |  March 19, 2017 at 3:15 AM
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DENVER - The Denver Nuggets shut down the Houston Rockets' 3-point shooting, but they couldn't contain James Harden, and the Rockets rode him to a big win.

Harden had his second triple-double in as many nights with 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Rockets beat the Nuggets 109-105 on Saturday night.

It was Harden's seventh game with a 40-point triple-double, padding the NBA record he set Friday in New Orleans. He has 11 games of 40 or more points, and he also notched his 19th triple-double of the season without the aid of his team's usual 3-point shooting.

Clint Capela had 16 points for the Rockets (48-22), who won despite a season-low in 3-point attempts (24) and makes (five).

"It means we can win in any game," Harden said. "Obviously we can shoot the ball at a high clip but when shots aren't falling or we're not getting threes we can win that way as well."

Gary Harris had 17 points, Nikola Jokic 16 and Jameer Nelson 15 points and 11 assist for the Nuggets, who now lead Portland by 1 1/2 games for the No. 8 seed.

Denver (33-36) played without Danilo Gallinari (left knee bruise) and Wilson Chandler (right groin contusion), and Jokic was in foul trouble for much of the game.

"Nikola getting in foul trouble is tough enough but when you couple that with no Wilson Chandler and no Gallo it makes it even more difficult," coach Michael Malone said.

It doesn't get any easier. Denver travels to Houston for a rematch Monday and then plays the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Wednesday.

"We did a lot of good things, clean up the undisciplined errors we made and hopefully we'll get a different result when we play them down in Houston," Malone said.

The Nuggets overcame poor foul shooting in the fourth quarter to get within a point after Nene's dunk had given Houston a 106-100 lead. Will Barton was fouled on a 3-point attempt but hit just two free throws to make it 106-105.

Nene split a pair of free throws at the other end, and Barton missed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left and a driving layup that would have tied it with five seconds left.

Harden was fouled and iced it with two free throws with 3.7 seconds left.

"They made shots and we didn't," Jokic said. "They played really good in that last stretch and we didn't make shots."

The Rockets started 1 for 15 from long range and missed 10 in a row until Ryan Anderson hit one to put them ahead 64-61 midway through the third quarter.

Despite the poor shooting from long range the Rockets were able to turn some opportunities into points. Four times Denver fouled the Rockets on 3-point attempts, three of those on Harden.

"He's good at just going up and shooting the ball," Harris said.

Harden took over for the rest of the third. He scored the final 16 points of the quarter for the Rockets, including a 3-pointer at the horn that gave them an 80-74 lead.

The Rockets outscored Denver 29-18 in the third quarter to take control.

"I took whatever they gave me, whether it was shooting the three or getting to the basket and creating," Harden said. "We kind of woke up in the second half. First half they were getting to where they wanted to go. Second half we locked down, played harder, played smarter."

Houston stretched the lead to eight and Jokic picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth.

"He's leading the charge for them in a lot of different ways," Anderson said of Jokic. "He's a great player, the more he's not in the game the better -- for us."

The Rockets were just 1 for 11 from 3-point range in the first half but stayed in the game by hitting 14 free throws to only trail by five at the break.

NOTES: Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said he has no plans to rest players down the stretch even if his team is locked into a playoff seed. "We have guys that want to play the whole 82," he said. "We talk about it, and if they need a rest we'll do that. Right now we don't have any plans. It doesn't mean we won't." ... Nuggets F Darrell Arthur has sat out three games with left knee soreness. ... Rockets F Sam Dekker played despite being questionable with back soreness.

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