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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Harden and Capela lead Rockets over Sixers 118-108
Posted: January 4, 2020 -- 9:41 a.m. CT
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 118-108 Friday night to improve to 24-11 this season. The Sixers (23-14) have lost 4 straight games.
James Harden, once again, was the best player on the floor. Harden posted the 43rd triple-double of his stellar NBA career with 44 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Houston is 36-7 when Harden has a triple-double. When Harden wasn't dishing out 11 assists, he made 13 of 24 field goal attempts including 6 for 12 from three-point range. He also was 12 for 12 from the free throw line.
Clint Capela scored 30 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as he used his quickness advantage to beat Philly big man Joel Embiid down the court numerous times to finish with dunks.
Capela said he could sense Embiid was getting tired of chasing him up and down the court.
"Yes. He's (Embiid) pretty big so and I know it must be pretty hard every time to keep up with my pace," Capela commented. "So, that's my game. That's what I do. I enjoy it."
Harden commented on Capela's performance: "Obviously, he's one of the fastest running bigs that we have in this league. So, it was an opportunity for him to score and an opportunity for our team to get points and put pressure on the defense. He did an unbelievable job of running."
The Rockets trailed the Sixers 27-20 at the end of the first quarter. Harden (3 for 8) and Russell Westbrook (1 for 6) combined to make just 4 of 14 field goal attempts in the opening quarter. As a team, the Rockets shot 8 for 26 in the first period.
The second quarter was an offensive explosion for the Rockets. Houston shot 68.4% (13 for 19) in the quarter; and, Capela (4 for 4), Harden (4 for 5), and Westbrook (3 for 4) combined to make 11 of 12 shots and score 30 of the Houston's 40 points in the quarter.
Houston led Philly 60-53 at halftime.
Houston's lead grew to 91-73 with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter; but, the Sixers outscored the Rockets 11-5 to end the quarter and cut Houston's lead to 96-84 heading to the fourth period.
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The Sixers trimmed Houston's lead to six points (96-90) before Westbrook knocked down a pull up jumper and sank a three-point shot for a 111-90 lead.
Philly closed within 105-100; but, Capela converted a three-point play; Westbrook scored a driving lay-up; and Harden swished to step back threes for a 116-106 lead with 77 seconds left in the game.
Brett Brown, Head Coach of the Sixers said of Harden's impact on the game, "Where do I begin? Just his ability to create the attention. You never feel comfortable that you're close enough. He dribbles two feet over half-court and you still don't feel like you're close enough. Then you try to get close, but he’s strong enough and good enough to go by you and then (Clint) Capela gets behind your head for the lobs, and so the package is lethal. He was outstanding tonight."
"He operates under a different plane than most people," Mike D'Antoni said of Harden. "He just understands the game. Sees it; and, knows where he wants them – they stay out (and) he throws a lob, they come in (and) he throws that. He's got that little runner; his threes are all over the place. I mean, (he's) really good. He's one of the best ever."
Houston's next game is Wednesday, January 8, on the road, versus the Atlanta Hawks. Tip is set for 6:30 p.m.
Harden extends his career-best streak of shooting 50.0% or better from the floor to seven games and has shot 50.0% or better in 17 of his 34 games played this season. Over his past 11 games played, Harden is averaging 39.3 points per game on 52.7% shooting along with 6.3 threes made per game on 49.6% shooting.
Dating back to 2018-19, Houston is 20-5 when Capela scores 20 or more points.
Russell Westbrook extends his streak of scoring 20 or more points to 12 games. That's the longest streak by a Rocket -- besides James Harden -- since a 14-game span by Yao Ming from February 22 to March 20, 2006.
Each of the Rockets past three wins have been by double-digits after two of Houston's previous seven wins were by 10+ points. Houston is outscoring opponents by 5.5 points per game this season, up from +4.7 in 2018-19.
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