Houston rockets star James Harden made a 36 points as his team surprised the Los Angeles Lakers in a 112-97 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal on Friday (Saturday, Manila time) at the NBA bubble near Orlando.
Harden converted 12 of 20 shots from the floor, including 3 of 6 3-point attempts.
While star team mate Russell Westbrook contributed 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and Eric Gordon had 23 points for the Rockets.
Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis led his team 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.
Veteran 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. The Lakers got no closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Kyle Kuzma’s 3-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 a 3-pointer 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.
The Rockets made 48.1 percent of their shots for the game, compared with 42.2 percent for the Lakers. The Lakers couldn’t take advantage of their height advantage. Both teams finished with 41 boards.
Houston’s Danuel House Jr. left the contest late in the third quarter and did not return after being hit in the face by teammate P.J. Tucker. (NBA.COM)