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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets top Lakers 113-97 to improve to 3-1 in NBA Restart

Posted: August 7, 2020 -- 6:47 a.m. CT

ORLANDO, FL (ESPN Disney World of Sports Complex) -- James Harden did everything Thursday night in the Rockets' 113-97 win over the LA Lakers. Harden led all scorers with 39 points. He added a game-high 12 assists; pulled down 8 rebounds; picked up 3 steals and 1 blocked shot (sorry, Quinn Cook). (Harden also had a game-high 10 turnovers.)

Both teams were missing key players due to rest / injury precaution: no Russell Westbrook (bruised right quad) and no Eric Gordon (sprained ankle) for the Rockets. For the Lakers, no LeBron James (sore groin); no Alex Caruso (neck); no Rajon Rondo (fractured right thumb).

Advantage Rockets.

Ben McLemore started in place of Westbrook. McLemore scored 20 points on 7 of 13 field goal shooting including 5 for 10 from three-point range. Jeff Green scored 15 points, in 27 minutes, off the bench.

Houston (43-25) led the Lakers 33-25 after the first quarter and 65-56 at halftime. The Rockets led by as much as 16 points (60-44) in the second quarter.

The Rockets led 91-73 late in the third quarter after P.J. Tucker nailed a three-point basket. Houston led 94-79 after three quarters.

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The Lakers (51-17) scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to cut Houston's lead to 94-89. Harden ended Houston's scoring drought when he made a very difficult driving layup he flipped up over Lakers' center's Dwight Howard's outstretched arms. Robert Covington followed Harden's layup with a three-pointer; then, Harden and Austin Rivers each sank a three-point shot to boost Houston's lead to 105-89 with 5:25 left in the game.

Houston's 11-0 run happened in one minute, 44 seconds. Houston cruised to the win.

Danuel House Jr scored 14 points for the Rockets and Austin Rivers added 11 points. The Rockets shot 21 for 57 from three-point range while the Lakers made just 2 of 19 three-point attempts.

"That's gonna win us a championship. Our defense. On the defensive end, laser focus is going to be what it takes," James Harden said after the game.

Houston's next game is Sunday, August 9, at 7 p.m. Central Time, against the Sacramento Kings.

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