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Harden explodes for 58 points as Rockets rally to beat Heat

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By Agence France-Presse

James Harden delivered his seventh career 50-point, 10-assist performance Thursday as the Houston Rockets edged the Miami Heat 121-118.

With Harden in a three-point shooting slump over the last few games, the Rockets have been depending on their reserves to help get the job done.

But Harden reasserted himself Thursday in front of a home crowd of 18,100 at the Toyota Center, finishing with 58 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds on a night when the Rockets had to once again tinker with their roster because of injuries.

“I wanted to be aggressive and continue to attack the rim,” Harden said. “I took my shots when I had the opportunities.”

He got some help down the stretch from Austin Rivers (17 points) and Chris Paul, whose jumper with 46 seconds left followed a failed Harden three-pointer and extended the lead to three. Coming into the game Harden was just three for 31 from beyond the arc in his previous three games.

Harden has three 50-point, 10-assist games this season. He had his streak of consecutive 30-point games snapped at 32 on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.

“We get the stat sheet at the end of the game, and I saw he had 58,” teammate Rivers said. “All of us were like, ‘He had that many points?’ We had no idea he had that many points. That’s a lot of points. He was incredible.”

Last month Harden scored a career-high and franchise-record 61 points in a 114-110 win over the lowly New York Knicks.

Miami grabbed a 113-103 lead on a Goran Dragic three pointer with 6:18 remaining, but Houston answered with a 14-0 run to take the lead.

Miami had seven players scoring in double figures with Dragic and Kelly Olynyk scoring 21 points apiece.

The Heat shot 51.9 percent overall but went cold at the wrong time, posting only 20 points on six-for-17 shooting in the final period.

“We were lackadaisical on defence, especially in that second quarter,” Harden said. “They gained confidence and knocked down shots. They were just too comfortable, so we had to pick the pressure up in the second half, create some turnovers and energy with our defence.”

The Rockets were without regulars Eric Gordon (knee), Kenneth Faried (hip) and Iman Shumpert (calf).

Elsewhere, Aaron Gordon tallied 22 points and 15 rebounds as the Orlando Magic snapped an 11-game losing streak to beat the Golden State Warriors 103-96.

The two-time defending NBA champion Warriors blew an 11-point lead en route to losing their second game in as many nights, after they fell to the Miami Heat 126-125 when veteran Dwyane Wade nailed the game winner at the buzzer on Wednesday.

Terrence Ross scored 16 points, D.J. Augustin got 14, while Nikola Vucevic had 12 points and 13 rebounds to help Orlando beat the Warriors for the first time since December 2012.

Stephen Curry scored 33 points, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins each had 21 for the Warriors, who rested Kevin Durant and ended up paying for it.

– Curry goes cold –
Curry sank only one basket in the fourth quarter.

“Considering the way we finished the third quarter, we were pretty much in control of the game,” Curry said. “But we missed a lot of shots and didn’t get any stops so it’s a frustrating way to end. This is a tough one.”

The Magic shot just five-of-23 from the field in the third quarter and trailed 81-70 going into the fourth. They led by eight points at halftime.

Ross nailed a three pointer in the fourth to spark a 15-4 run. His final three pointer of the game, with 4:16 left, made it 89-89.

Also, Bojan Bogdanovic scored a season-high 35 points and the Indiana Pacers overcame Karl-Anthony Towns’ dominating offensive performance for Minnesota to beat the Timberwolves 122-115.

Towns had 42 points and 17 rebounds, scoring 23 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter.