In his return to Houston, James Harden joined in as the Brooklyn Nets asserted their dominance over the Rockets with a 132-114 win on Wednesday.
Harden paced the Nets with his eighth triple-double with the Nets (29 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds), leading the team to improve to 24-13 on the season.
The Rockets, who have now lost 13 consecutive games, were paced by a season-high 36 points from John Wall.
- John Wall, Rockets: 36 PTS, 5 AST
- Victor Oladipo, Rockets: 33 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST
- James Harden, Nets: 29 PTS, 14 AST, 10 REB
- Kyrie Irving, Nets: 24 PTS, 6 AST, 5 REB
James Harden's Happy Homecoming
After he dropped his seventh triple-double of his Nets career Monday night, the stage was set for Harden to head back to Houston for the first time since the holdout that eventually led to his departure from the organization.
In Monday's win, Harden became the first player to tally 30 points, 15 assists and at least 10 rebounds without a turnover, according to Elias Sports Bureau (h/t Malika Andrews of ESPN).
He carried that success into Wednesday.
But before he got started, the Rockets honored Harden with a video tribute.
In the first half, he led the Nets with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field, and he added nine assists and seven rebounds to already begin flirting with a triple-double. Kyrie Irving was close behind with 11 points, and Nicolas Claxton starred with 12 points in only seven minutes off the bench to start the game.
Even in Kevin Durant's absence, there were points to be had from Brooklyn.
Harden ended the night with 29 points, with Irving right behind with 24.
In the end, Harden's homecoming wasn't spurned by a streak-snapping loss, and the Nets will head into the break ready for Durant to return to make them even more of a force in the second half.
Will John Wall and Victor Oladipo Be Enough?
The Rockets looked to John Wall and Victor Oladipo to pace them in their last outing, with Wall leading with 32 points and Oladipo posting 20. But Eric Gordon was sidelined by knee soreness, Danuel House Jr. was hurt in the first half, and key bench player David Nwaba was recovering from a sore wrist, and the team fell 101-90 for its 12th straight loss.
While the Nets pack an offensive punch even when one member of their Big Three isn't in the lineup, their defense has shown cracks. Brooklyn boasts a defensive rating of 113.6, tied for fourth-worst in the league, according to NBA.com.
The matchup could've provided a breakthrough for the struggling Rockets, who haven't won since losing center Christian Wood to an ankle injury. The outlook was grim entering Wednesday as the Rockets had only eight players dressed against one of the league's strongest offensive teams.
They hung on in the first quarter, trailing only 30-27, but they entered the half down 67-54.
As expected, Wall and Oladipo led the way.
In the first half, Wall starred with 21 points on three-of-five shooting from deep, and Oladipo tacked on 11, but no other Rockets player had more than eight points, while four Nets had at least 10 points.
Things got closer in the third, as Oladipo scored 18 points in the quarter to bring the Rockets within 10 points, but the Nets pulled away and took a 101-85 lead into the final frame.
The Rockets couldn't pull past the Nets, despite getting a season-high 36 points from Wall and 33 from Oladipo.
Now riding a 13-game losing streak, the Rockets will have to wait until after the All-Star break to get their season back on track.
For these teams, the All-Star break.