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James Harden’s 44 lifts Rockets over Nets

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The Rockets blew two leads but took the victory anyway.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, as the Houston Rockets blew a first-half lead of 22 points and a second-half lead of 18 points, but they rebounded behind a huge night from James Harden to down the Brooklyn Nets 108-98.

The Beard finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and a career-high-tying 4 blocks, and he went 17-27 from the field and 6-10 from three. He was just 4-9 from the free throw line, in an uncharacteristic performance at the stripe, but the misses thankfully didn’t matter in the end.

Harden scored 23 of his points in the first quarter, when he and Russell Westbrook combined to score Houston’s first 38 (not a misprint) in leading the Rockets to a 42-20 advanatge at the end of the first frame. Russ started off hot, going 7-9 from the field, mostly from mid-range, but he came crashing back to earth after that, and helped let the Nets back in the game.

Westbrook missed his next 10 shots in a row, and with no one else hitting for the Rockets, Brooklyn clawed their way back into the game. Russ finished the game with 23 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and a block, but he was just 11-28 from the field and failed to make the Nets pay when doubling Harden or sinking into a zone after the first frame.

After pushing the lead back up in the third quarter, things looked precarious for the Rockets in the fourth quarter, as they let the Nets come all the way back to take a 90-89 lead with about 8:30 left in the game, as Houston was getting no clutch shooting from their role players.

Danuel House, P.J. Tucker, and Ben McLemore finished a combined 3-21 from beyond the arc before Austin Rivers finally stepped up in the fourth and hit a few clutch shots, and with as well as The Beard was playing, it was just enough help to push Houston over the top. Rivers finished with 14 points on 4-9 from deep.

The only other Rocket with a major contribution was Isaiah Hartenstein, who received extended playing time due to the injury to Clint Capela and responded with a career-high-tying 9 points to go along with 13 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Good for Hart, who is playing for his guarantee, which is up in early January.

As for the Nets, they were led by Spencer Dinwiddie, who finished with 17 points and 11 assists, Jarrett Allen, who had 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks, Taurean Prince, who had 16 points and 6 boards, and Joe Harris, who finished with 12.

The Rockets now move to 22-10 on the season, which is a 56-win pace, for all the ups and downs it feels like they’ve had. They will be back in action tomorrow night, when they go on the road to take on the New Orleans Pelicans.