LOS ANGELES: James Harden’s monster 50-point triple-double powered the Houston Rockets to a 126-111 NBA victory over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
Harden, the reigning NBA Most Valuable player, added 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his second triple-double of the season and his second 50-point game of what has been a frustrating campaign for the Rockets so far.
Houston led the league last season with 65 regular-season wins, but came into the contest next-to-last in the Western Conference.
They gained a spot as they continued to claw their way back toward .500, improving to 13-14.
“Honestly, we’re in a hole right now,” Harden said. “You look at the standings, we’re in the 14th spot — it’s kind of depressing. But we’ve got to figure it out.
“We continue to fight our way through it.”
Harden said early-season injuries and the addition of new players contributed to the shaky start to the season, but he remained confident the Rockets can be a force in the West.
“I just believe and trust in all my guys,” he said. “We’ll continue to build.”
Harden scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets — who led 90-88 through three periods — finally pulled away in a game that featured 13 lead changes and was tied 12 times.
He pulled down his 10th rebound with less than 90 seconds remaining for the 37th triple-double of his career. He has produced four of the 13 50-point triple-doubles ever recorded in the league.
Chris Paul added 14 points and nine assists, Clint Capela chipped in 16 points and 14 rebounds and Danuel House added 15 points off the bench for the Rockets.
James led the Lakers with 29 points and Kyle Kuzma added 24, but the Lakers saw a two-game winning streak end.
Spurs dominate Clippers
The San Antonio Spurs continued their rise up the Western Conference rankings with a fourth straight victory, 125-87 over the Los Angeles Clippers.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points, connecting on 12 of 14 shots. That included his first three-pointer of the season.
Rudy Gay scored 21 points and DeMar DeRozan and Marco Belinelli added 14 apiece as six Spurs players scored in double figures.
It was the Spurs’ biggest win of the season and gave them four wins in four games of their current six-game homestand. They had arrived back in Texas having lost two on the road to fall three games under .500 for the first time in two decades.
“We had a lot of games on the road and that kind of caught up with us,” Aldridge said. “Coming home, guys wanted to recharge and take care of this home stand.”
The Phoenix Suns took care of business at home, downing Dallas 99-89 to spoil the season debut of Mavericks icon Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki, who had ankle surgery in April, became the first player in NBA history to suit up for 21 seasons for the same team when he came into the game in the first quarter.
He played just over six minutes and scored two points — banking in a jump shot on his first attempt of the night.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said the team were “thrilled” to have Nowitzki back on the floor, but the lowly Suns spoiled the party, snapping a 10-game losing streak.
T.J. Warren led Phoenix with 30 points. Jamal Crawford added 17 off the bench and fellow reserve Josh Jackson contributed 14.
Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks with 15 points, but Dallas were undone by 23 turnovers.
A trip south of the border proved fruitful for the Orlando Magic, who ended a three-game skid with a 97-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Mexico City.
Center Nikola Vucevic scored 26 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Magic, who trailed by four points with 7:35 remaining.
Vucevic scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as the Magic secured the victory in front of a crowd of 20,021 at Arena Ciudad de Mexico.