James Harden had another huge offensive game Sunday night, scoring 40 points in the Rockets’ 103-98 win over Orlando in Houston.
But it was the point guard’s defense about which head coach Mike D’Antoni raved after Harden blocked three shots and helped limit Orlando 7-footer Nikola Vucevic to two points in the second half.
“I just told James they voted him in the wrong place. They got him as a guard in the All-Star (Game) — he should be a center,” D’Antoni said with a chuckle.
The reigning MVP extended his streak of 30-point games to 23, which ranks fourth in NBA history behind three such streaks by Wilt Chamberlain. Harden, who had 11 rebounds and six assists, has scored 40 or more points in 12 of his past 17 games.
The Rockets trailed by as many as 16 and did not lead until about four minutes were left.
Chris Paul had 12 points and six assists for Houston after missing the previous 17 games with a strained left hamstring.
Houston went 12-5 in Paul’s absence, and he said his return changes little for Harden.
“James is going to be James,” Paul said. “I don’t care who’s on the court, me, anybody. He’s going to be him. We need him to be him. That’s why he’s the MVP.”
Lakers 116, Suns 102: Ivica Zubac and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each scored 24 points and shorthanded Los Angeles led throughout in beating visiting Phoenix. Brandon Ingram added 22 points as Los Angeles was missing Kyle Kuzma (hip) and Tyson Chandler (rest), along with LeBron James and Lonzo Ball.
Raptors 123, Mavericks 120: Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points to help visiting Toronto overcome a triple-double from Dallas rookie Luka Doncic. Doncic, who will turn 20 on Feb. 28, finished with a personal-high 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Clippers 122, Kings 108: Montrezl Harrell scored 25 points, and host Los Angeles earned its third consecutive win. Tobias Harris added 18 points for Los Angeles, which was coming off a 3-1 road trip. De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 21 points.
Cavaliers 104, Bulls 101: Jordan Clarkson and Alec Burks each scored 18 points, and visiting Cleveland ended a six-game skid. NBA-worst Cleveland (10-41) had dropped 18 of 19. Lauri Markkanen led Chicago with 21 points and 15 rebounds.
Jazz 125, Timberwolves 111: Donovan Mitchell had 29 points and Ricky Rubio added 18 points with eight assists to send Utah past host Minnesota for its ninth win in 10 games.
Thunder 118, Bucks 112: Paul George had 36 points and 13 rebounds, and host Oklahoma City won its fifth straight game. Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his 16th triple-double of the season. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 18 rebounds.
Spurs 132, Wizards 119: LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and San Antonio snapped a two-game skid at home. The Spurs were without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, but had seven players in double figures. Thomas Satoransky had 21 points for Washington.
Heat 106, Knicks 97: Wayne Ellington scored all of his 19 points in the second half, and visiting Miami handed New York its ninth straight loss. Miami had seven players score in double figures in its second straight win. Dwyane Wade had 15 points and 10 assists, and Hassan Whiteside added 13 points and 16 rebounds.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Chris-Paul-returns-helps-James-Harden-as-Rockets-13566227.php.