States– NBA scoring leaders James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo powered
their teams to decisive NBA triumphs Sunday while Detroit snapped a five-game
losing streak by rallying past Denver.
Houston star Harden scored 40 points, grabbed 10 rebounds
and handed out nine assists as the Rockets defeated visiting New Orleans and
rookie star Zion Williamson 117-109.
Harden, on pace for his third NBA scoring title in a row
with 35.6 points a game, hit 12-of-24 shots from the floor, 7-of-15 from
3-point range, and all nine of his free throws.
“We want to finish these games up before the break and
come back with some momentum,” Harden said.
“When we hit our stride it’s going to be pretty scary.
We’re still trying to find it and we will.”
Greek big man Antetokounmpo scored 30 points, exactly his
season scoring average, while pulling down 19 rebounds and passing off nine
assists to spark the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks over the visiting Phoenix
Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks, who improved
the NBA’s best record to 42-7, while Devin Booker led the Suns with 32 points.
“We all depend on each other and we just want to
continue to get better each night,” said Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, who had
17 points and nine blocked shots.
The Rockets, outrebounded 63-43, used a smaller lineup with
Swiss center Clint Capela injured, taking full advantage of the speed, passing
and playmaking skills of Harden and Russell Westbrook, who contributed 22
points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“Be healthy and continue to keep our good spirit up,
we’ll be all right,” Harden said.
The Rockets, fifth in the Western Conference at 31-18,
committed only seven turnovers compared to 21 by the Pelicans, who had 21
points and 10 rebounds from Williamson.
The highly touted NBA newcomer played a season-high 32
minutes after making his debut only two weeks ago due to a knee injury that
sidelined him for three months.
“Beast,” Harden said of Williamson. “He has a
feel for the game. He’s strong. He’s going to be really great.”
The Pelicans, led by 28 points and 12 rebounds from Brandon
Ingram, went 10-of-33 from 3-point range, missing their last 33-point shots
after the middle of the third quarter.
“They play at a very high pace, very fast and they put
up a lot of 3s,” Harden said. “We just had to keep up with them, make
sure we contain their dribble penetration and offensively just do what we
Andre Drummond scored 21 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as
the Detroit Pistons rallied from 21 points down early to defeat visiting Denver
128-123 in over-time.
Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 20 points while Detroit
reserve Bruce Brown added 19 as seven Pistons scored in double figures.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic of Serbia had a triple double
with a game-high 39 points plus 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a losing cause as
Denver fell to 34-16, third in the West.
At 18-33, Detroit stands 11th in the Eastern Conference,
four games behind Orlando for the final playoff spot.
– Champs win streak at 11 –
The defending champion Toronto Raptors, led by 31 points
from reserve Terence Davis, stretched their win streak to 11 games by defeating
visiting Chicago 129-102.
At 36-14, the Raptors have the third-best record in the NBA,
trailing only the Bucks and the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers.
Cameroon star Pascal Siakam scored 17 points and grabbed
nine rebounds for the Raptors. Thaddeus Young led Chicago with 21 points.