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James Harden Scores 40, Suffers Injury as Rockets Outlast Lakers in Double OT

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2018

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) looks for a way around Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart (5) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Michael Wyke/Associated Press

The Houston Rockets stormed back from an 11-point deficit after three quarters to score a 148-142 double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on New Year's Eve at the Toyota Center in Houston.

NBA scoring leader James Harden tallied 40 points and 11 assists before leaving with an injury in the fourth quarter as the Rockets went on to snap a five-game losing streak. Chris Paul added 28 points and 10 dimes in his second game back from a groin injury, while Eric Gordon chipped in 14 points off the bench.

The Lakers, who were without Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brook Lopez, got 29 points and 15 rebounds from Julius Randle. Josh Hart provided a spark with a career-high 26 points and fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma continued his strong play with 23 points, five boards and three assists.

The first quarter looked more like an All-Star Game than the regular season as the teams combined for 81 points thanks to a lot of high-flying offense and shaky defense.

Los Angeles managed to pull away before halftime as the typically dependable Rockets offense went cold. They finished the opening 24 minutes shooting 28 percent from beyond than arc (7-of-25). The Lakers also held a 27-12 rebounding edge to help build a seven-point lead at the break.

Adam Clanton of KBME spotlighted Houston's defensive woes:

Adam Clanton @adamclanton

The #Rockets’ defense—once a Top 10 strength of the team—has surrendered 72 first-half points to the #LAKERS on 61% shooting & 48 paint points. Just brutal.

L.A. stretched its lead to 11 after the third quarter, but the Rockets opened the fourth period with a 7-0 run to get back in the contest.

Although the Lakers held off the comeback attempt for nearly the entire quarter, leading by as much as six with 2:13 left in regulation, the Rockets clawed back even with 17 seconds left on a clutch three-pointer by Gerald Green to tie it at 122-122.

The Rockets highlighted the key shot:

Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

🤘🚀 https://t.co/Cqjtlg4QBC

Both teams failed to capitalize on their final possessions in the fourth—Kuzma missed a three for L.A. and Houston couldn't get off a shot—sending the game to overtime.

The first OT couldn't solve the deadlock. Paul gave the Rockets a lead with four seconds left, but Brandon Ingram stepped to the foul line and knocked down two free throws to tie the game again.

Tania Ganguli‏ of the Los Angeles Times joked about the seemingly never-ending contest:

Tania Ganguli @taniaganguli

Ingram sinks two free throws to tie the game again with 0.8 seconds left in overtime. We're gonna be here til 2018.

PJ Tucker, who fouled Ingram late in the first overtime, came up big to secure the win for Houston in the second OT. He put back an offensive rebound off a Paul miss to give the Rockets a lead and then blocked a Kuzma three-point attempt in the final seconds.

Paul nailed four late free throws to clinch the hard-earned victory for Houston.

Shahan Ahmed of NBC LA discussed the importance of CP3:

Shahan Ahmed @shahanLA

In watching the Rockets vs the Lakers and Rockets vs the Celtics, CP3 is SOOOOO important in the 4th quarter/OTs. Harden can carry games, but having CP3 around to close is vital. They can be so damn dangerous if both can be healthy come playoffs. That's a big "IF"

Looking ahead, the Rockets (26-9) return to action Wednesday night with a road game against the Orlando Magic before returning home for a marquee battle with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle noted Harden suffered a strained left hamstring. So his availability for those upcoming games isn't immediately clear.

The Lakers (11-24) are right back on the floor Monday night for a New Year's Day contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the organization's original home, Minneapolis.

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