James Harden scored 44 points with 11 assists and 11 rebounds on Friday, notching his first triple-double of the NBA season to lift the Houston Rockets to a 118-108 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Clint Capela added a season-high 30 points with 14 rebounds and Russell Westbrook added 20 points as the Rockets handed the Sixers their fourth straight defeat – a disappointing skid in the wake of their Christmas upset of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Rockets’ 18-point third quarter lead had dwindled to single digits with 2:07 remaining when Harden drained a step-back three-pointer that boosted the Rockets’ lead to 11.
After another three-pointer, Harden connected with Capela for an alley-oop dunk that capped the scoring with 55.4 seconds left.
Harden made 13 of 24 shots. Capela connected on 12 of 16, outplaying Philadelphia star Joel Embiid, who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds but made just seven of 17 from the floor.
Ben Simmons led Philadelphia with 29 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocked shots.
In Boston, Daniel Theis blocked a three-point attempt by Atlanta’s Trae Young with 2.7 seconds remaining and the Celtics escaped with a 109-106 victory over the lowly Hawks.
“I knew he wanted to take the three to win the game,” Boston center Theis said. “He probably would’ve beat me for a layup, but I think he just wanted the game-winner. That’s why I said I just tried to take away the shot, and at the end I was right there to block it.”
Atlanta, who came into the game with the league’s worst record, jumped to a 29-11 lead in the first quarter. Boston cut the advantage to two points by halftime, and led by two going into the final period.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Gordon Hayward added 18 points and six rebounds and Marcus Smart, starting for point guard Kemba Walker who was battling flu-like symptoms, notched 15 points with six rebounds and nine assists.
But it was Theis’s big block that defined the night, leaving Young – who finished with 28 points and 10 assists – disappointed in his return to action after two games sidelined by a sprained right ankle.
“That’s a big-time basketball play,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
Magic ‘stifle’ Heat
Terrence Ross was the star in Orlando, tying a season-high with six three-pointers in the Magic’s 105-85 victory over the Miami Heat.
Ross finished with 25 points and teammate Nikola Vucevic posted his 15th double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Jimmy Butler scored 23 points for Miami, but the Heat were throttled by the Magic in the fourth quarter. Miami’s six fourth-quarter points matched the lowest total in a quarter by any team in more than two years.
“They absolutely stifled us, choked us offensively,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We didn’t help matters in terms of defensively, just a lot of mental errors and mistakes and weren’t flying around like we certainly were last night.
“But you have to credit them for their defensive game plan, their commitment to that, just
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