Harden has been unleashed since being traded from Oklahoma City on Oct. 27, averaging 26.3 points and topping 20 in each of his last 15 games. With his help, Houston (19-14) is the NBA's top scoring team at 106.1 points per game.
Harden scored a team-best 29 points and Carlos Delfino had 22 as the Rockets rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 115-101 win in Milwaukee on Friday. Houston took the lead for good by outscoring the Bucks 30-14 in the third quarter and finished shooting 54.2 percent.
"Really, that third quarter is about as good as we can play," coach Kevin McHale said. "We locked down on the defensive end. We pushed it up. We got shots and made shots. Then we started blowing some of their plays up just by being aggressive. I was really proud of the guys."
Irving is scoring 23.1 points per game in his second season, which was interrupted by a fractured finger from Nov. 21-Dec. 8, but the Cavaliers (8-26) are averaging only 94.2. Cleveland, though, had one of its better scoring performances at Charlotte on Friday but needed Irving's help to escape with a 106-104 victory and snap a three-game losing streak.
The Cavaliers point guard hit the go-ahead jumper in the final second and scored 16 of his team-best 33 points in the fourth quarter.
"I kind of got in a zone and kept it going," Irving said. "And they kept feeding me and trusted me to continue to make the right plays."
Cleveland led by 18 points in the third quarter of that game but allowed the Bobcats to take a one-point lead with 4:43 to go.
"Our guys never seem to make it easy on us," coach Byron Scott said. "You know that is one thing I told them, we have to figure out how to have a killer instinct when you have a team down like that, don't relax and just allow them to get back in the game. I thought that is what we did."
Houston has won 12 of 17 over Cleveland but lost 118-107 at Quickens Loan Arena in the most recent matchup March 11. Irving had 21 points, six rebounds and five assists in his only matchup with the Rockets.
Houston has lost in three of its past four visits to the Cavaliers but it's hoping Harden's presence might make a difference. While playing as a third option at best for Oklahoma City, the swingman averaged 16.7 points on 57.1 percent shooting in his past three matchups and has made seven of 15 shots from 3-point range.
Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, who needed five stitches after a collision with Milwaukee's Larry Sanders on Friday, had 19 points and 13 assists in his only game against Cleveland, a 120-103 win for New York on Feb. 29.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kyrie Irving
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Houston Rockets
- James Harden