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Harden carries Rockets past LeBron-less Lakers


James Harden paired 39 points with 12 assists and the Houston Rockets claimed the season series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 113-97 win on Thursday in The Arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

Harden added eight rebounds and three steals to his ledger in carrying the load with All-Star Russell Westbrook (right quad contusion) sidelined. Ben McLemore (20 points) and Jeff Green (15 points) helped with a combined 8-for-20 3-point shooting. Houston (43-25) hit 21 of 57 3s.

The Lakers (51-17) played without LeBron James (sore right groin) and continued their offensive struggles. Anthony Davis posted 17 points and 12 rebounds but also committed seven turnovers while Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers, who shot 2 of 19 on 3-pointers, with 21 points.

The Lakers injected a bit of interest in the fourth quarter with a 16-3 run that started in the third. Houston scored its first basket of the final period of the 7:09 mark via a Harden layup, extending the lead back to seven points. Robert Covington, Harden and Austin Rivers added 3s in succession to help the Rockets push their lead to 105-89 and reclaim control once and for all.

Dion Waiters' free throw with 3:08 left in the first quarter gave the Lakers their final lead at 21-20. Green buried three 3s down the stretch of the opening period, including a 26-footer with 1.2 seconds remaining that allowed the Rockets to carry a 33-26 lead into the second period.

Houston shot 50 percent (11 for 22) overall in the first quarter, including a robust 7 of 13 from behind the arc. Harden and Green combined for 21 points in the period for Houston, which turned a 10-2 run in the second quarter into a 49-35 lead. The Lakers played catch-up the rest of the way, a challenge made greater by their 0-for-6 shooting from deep prior to the intermission.

The Lakers didn't sink their first 3 until the 9:27 mark of the third quarter, a 27-footer from Kuzma that cut the deficit to 73-65. The Rockets responded with a 13-3 run capped by a Green dunk off a Harden feed. When P.J. Tucker nailed a 3 with 2:13 left in the period, the Rockets grabbed their biggest lead at 91-73.

--Field Level Media

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