NBA: Harden drops 55, Rockets overcome Cavs' 24-0 run

Field Level Media via Reuters

Posted at Dec 12 2019 11:44 AM

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) collides with Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. David Richard, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

James Harden scored 55 points, but it was his eighth assist that proved critical in the visiting Houston Rockets' 116-110 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Harden gave the Rockets a 109-108 lead with 1:03 left and followed by converting a Cleveland turnover into a transition corner 3-pointer by P.J. Tucker that extended the advantage to four. Tucker recorded the steal against Jordan Clarkson and dashed to the right corner to await the pass from Harden, who delivered in plenty of time for Tucker to set his feet and sink the shot.

Harden finished 20 of 34 from the floor and drilled 10 of 18 3-point attempts to help Houston overcome a 24-0 Cleveland run that bridged the final two periods. The Cavaliers have dropped 14 of 15 games.

Russell Westbrook added 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Rockets.

Rookie Kevin Porter Jr. scored a career-high 24 points to pace the Cavaliers, while Collin Sexton chipped in 18. Kevin Love and Clarkson scored 17 apiece, with Love adding 11 rebounds.

Westbrook converted a dunk off a Harden assist with 1:38 left in the third quarter that extended the Houston lead to 88-75. Then Cleveland initiated its comeback, starting with Clarkson, who scored the final seven points of the period to pull the Cavaliers to within six.

Suddenly emboldened, the Cavaliers kept rolling, doing so with five reserves on the floor. Cleveland opened the final period with a 17-0 surge, getting baskets from John Henson, Larry Nance Jr. and Porter before Harden ended the Rockets' drought with a floater at the 8:00 mark that cut the deficit to 99-90. Harden took his cue and dragged the Rockets back into contention.

Chris Clemons' three at the buzzer gave Houston a 35-29 lead entering the second period, and Houston still led, 64-57, at intermission.

The Rockets needed their strong shooting from the perimeter because their defense was again lacking. Cleveland shot 53.2 percent from the floor prior to the intermission, with Love (13 points) and Sexton (10) scoring in double figures, while the Cavaliers received 17 points from their reserves.

Houston countered with 51.1 percent shooting, including 8 of 20 from behind the arc. Harden shot 9 of 16 in the first half en route to 24 points, while Westbrook added 14 points to help share the load.

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