Nets’ Harden triumphs in return to Houston, 76ers silence Jazz
LOS ANGELES – James Harden returned to Houston for the first time since his tumultuous departure from the Rockets on Wednesday, posting a triple-double to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 132-114 victory over his former NBA team.
Harden, greeted by a first-quarter video tribute, cheers and a smattering of boos, delivered 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists to fuel Brooklyn, where he finally landed in January after demanding a trade.
“A lot of mixed emotions,” Harden said of returning to the Toyota Center court.
“My teammates did an unbelievable job that allowed me to come out there and have the team get this win,” said Harden, who was one of seven Nets players to score in double figures.
He was grateful for the tribute video that showcased his accomplishments in Houston, including the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player award and the league scoring title the past three seasons.
He became just the sixth player in NBA history to record a triple-double in his first game against his former team, ably helping the Nets overcome the continued absence of Kevin Durant.
John Wall led the Rockets with 36 points. Victor Oladipo, who arrived in Houston in the blockbuster multi-team trade that sent Harden to Brooklyn, added 33.
Embiid leads 76ers
Joel Embiid scored 40 points and pulled down 19 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 131-123 overtime victory over the Utah Jazz in a clash of the top teams in the East and West.
The Cameroonian center drained a three-pointer to knot the score at 118-118 with 6.5 seconds left in regulation and Tobias Harris scored 11 of his 22 points in overtime to lift the Sixers to victory over the league-leading Jazz.
Utah star Donovan Mitchell finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and six assists but was ejected after receiving his second technical in the extra period.
A frustrated Mitchell lashed out at game officials.
“I’m never, ever one to blame a ref, blame an official, but this is getting out of hand,” Mitchell said of calls he felt should have gone Utah’s way but didn’t.
“There have been games like this we’ve won, games we’ve lost. We’re nice, we don’t complain, we don’t get frustrated, we fight through things.
“But the fact that we continuously get screwed in a way by this… it’s getting ridiculous,” added Donovan, who stormed off the court after his second technical for arguing with officials, kicking a water cooler toward a security guard as he departed.
Indiana point guard T.J. McConnell was the star in the Pacers’ 114-111 victory over the Cavaliers in Cleveland, putting up an unconventional triple-double comprising 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 steals.
McConnell broke the NBA record for steals in a first half with nine and just one shy of the best mark in a game, which stands at 11.
It was the 11th triple-double including steals since steals were recognized as a statistical category in the 1973-74 season.
“I was just playing with our defensive principles and trying to help run the team, I wasn’t going out of my way to make steals,” McConnell said. “We kind of dug ourselves a hole, so I’m happiest about the win.”
A pair of more familiar triple-doubles, from Mason Plumlee and Dennis Smith Jr, powered the Detroit Pistons past the Toronto Raptors 129-105.
Plumlee had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and Smith added 10 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists — the first time since 1964 that two Pistons notched triple-doubles in the same game.
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