Harden returns to lead Rockets over Nuggets: 130-104
James Harden scored 35 points and Russell Westbrook finished with 28 as the Houston Rockets cooled off the Denver Nuggets with a 130-104 win on Dec. 31.
Harden also had six assists while Westbrook contributed seven helpers, avenging an earlier loss to the Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic scored 21 points to lead Denver, who had won nine of their last 10 games.
Denver defeated the Rockets 105-95 on November 20 by double-teaming Harden which put more pressure on his teammates to try and pick up the slack.
The Rockets moved the ball quickly on Tuesday, seizing control of the contest with a 19-3 burst to open the fourth quarter.
Clint Capela had a double-double for Houston (16 points, 10 rebounds) while Isaiah Hartenstein finished with 16 points and 12 boards off the bench.
Monte Morris came off the bench to score 18 points for Denver. Paul Millsap had 13 points and nine boards for Denver while Jamal Murray and Will Barton totaled 22 points on 10-of-30 shooting.
Elsewhere, Domantas Sabonis tallied 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Indiana Pacers beat the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 115-97 in Indianapolis.
TJ Warren scored 21 points, Myles Turner tallied 14 and Jeremy Lamb had 13 for the Pacers, who improved to 15-3 at home.
Doug McDermott also had 12 points for Indiana, while former 76er TJ McConnell added 11 points and 10 assists, ending a modest two-game losing skid for the Pacers.
“We played great basketball,” Pacers’ coach Nate McMillan said. “We established our defense, got stops and were able to get into transition.
“With 35 assists we were making their defense move and work. I just loved the tempo we established at the defensive end of the floor as well as the offensive end.”
Philadelphia looked disorganized without all-star center Embiid, who has an injured left knee. They have won just three of seven games this season when Embiid sat out.
Ben Simmons had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Josh Richardson scored 20 points for the Sixers. Since beating the Milwaukee Bucks 121-109 on Christmas Day, the Sixers have dropped three consecutive road games in Orlando, Miami and Indianapolis.
“After coming out of Miami (a 117-116 loss in overtime) and losing two games prior to being here, that’s a disappointing performance,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.
“I do give Indiana credit as it relates to us missing shots. We certainly had people down. They were some of our better players. Just didn’t have the performances that they’re used to having.”
Also, Kawhi Leonard scored 24 points and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings for the 10th straight time, 105-87. Leonard finished eight of 21 from the floor with seven assists.
Paul George delivered 21 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Clippers, who have won 14 straight in Sacramento.