Triple-double helps James Harden, Rockets rout Jazz

James Harden put on an MVP performance with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Rockets to a second straight rout of Utah, 118-98, in Houston on Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

Harden, who recorded his third career playoff triple-double, had 25 points by halftime in a game the Jazz were all but out of after the first two quarters.

It’s the second straight season in which Houston has met Utah in the postseason, after facing the Jazz in the second round last year. The Rockets also won Game 1 of that series easily before losing the second game at home. They ended up winning the series in five games but talked about the importance of maintaining focus after their 32-point win in Game 1 this season to avoid another such letdown.

Harden controlled the game from the start as the Rockets raced to a 39-19 lead after a first quarter in which he scored just two points fewer than the Jazz did. Houston made 6 of 13 3-point tries in the first and Utah hit just one of its 14 tries. The Rockets pushed their advantage to 70-44 at halftime.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah’s second-year guard, vowed to do more after scoring 19 points in Game 1, finishing with five turnovers and no assists. He did have more assists, dishing out six, but managed just 11 points on 5-for-19 shooting and had four turnovers.

Bucks 120, Pistons 99: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 13 of his 26 points in Milwaukee’s big third quarter and the Bucks won at home to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series. Eric Bledsoe led the Bucks with 27 points, and Khris Middleton had 24. Milwaukee is trying win a series for the first time since 2001.

Celtics 99, Pacers 91: A poor third quarter did in visiting Indiana during Game 1 of its first-round series with Boston. In Game 2, the host Celtics seized on a fourth-quarter collapse by the Pacers. Kyrie Irving scored 37 points and Boston rallied late in the fourth quarter, taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Coming out of a timeout and with a chance for Indiana to tie with 12.1 seconds left, the Pacers’ Wesley Matthews threw an inbounds pass into the bench on the other side of the court. On the ensuing play, the Celtics’ Al Horford passed to Jayson Tatum, who was fouled on a two-handed dunk. He completed the three-point play to make it 97-91 with 8.8 seconds left.

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