James Harden scored 36 points, and the Houston Rockets surprised the Los Angeles Lakers in a 112-97 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final on Friday at the NBA bubble near Orlando.
- Points: James Harden – 36
- Assists: Russell Westbrook – 6
- Rebounds: Russell Westbrook – 9
Los Angeles Lakers
- Points: Anthony Davis – 25
- Assists: LeBron James – 7
- Rebounds: Anthony Davis – 14
Rockets/Lakers lead series 1-0
Harden converted 12-of-20 shots from the floor, including 3-of-6 three-pointers. Russell Westbrook contributed 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and Eric Gordon had 23 points for the Rockets.
Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 25 points and 14 rebounds, while LeBron James had 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Alex Caruso added 14 points, and Danny Green chipped in 10 for Los Angeles.
Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, who underwent surgery on a broken thumb in July, made his playoff debut. Rondo finished with eight points and four assists in 25 minutes.
The Rockets took a 101-82 lead after a bucket by Harden with 7:15 remaining and the Lakers, who trailed at the end of every quarter, got no closer than 13 the rest of the way.
It leaves James and his team-mates playing catch-up for the second time in their run having lost the opener of their first round series against Portland. They rebounded to take the series 4-1 and looked a little sluggish having waited almost a week to take on the Rockets.
Houston on the other hand look battled-ready having been taken all the way by the Oklahoma City Thunder before prevailing in seven. The teams return for Game Two Sunday night.
Kyle Kuzma’s three-pointer cut the Rockets’ lead to 78-76 with 2:06 left in the third quarter. However, a three-point play by Austin Rivers and a jumper by Westbrook put Houston up 83-76 with 39.1 seconds remaining in the quarter.
James hit his own three with 31 seconds left to cut the gap to four, but another basket by Westbrook gave the Rockets an 85-79 edge heading in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets took control early in the fourth and never looked back. After Rondo’s bucket with 3:44 remaining in the second quarter tied the score at 52, the Rockets closed the half with a 11-3 surge for a 63-55 advantage at the break. Harden led all scorers with 25 first-half points.
Both teams finished with 41 boards but the Rockets made 48.1 per cent of their shots for the game, compared with 42.2 per cent for the Lakers.
Houston’s Daniel House left the contest late in the third quarter and did not return after being hit in the face by team-mate P.J. Tucker.