James Harden recorded a 50-point triple-double and came through during a decisive stretch in the fourth quarter to lift the host Houston Rockets to a 126-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
In what was a signature win for the Rockets, Harden posted 50 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to thwart the Lakers, who were 6-1 in their previous games.
With Houston clinging to a 109-106 lead following an explosive dunk by the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma with 4:16 to go, Harden sank three free throws before drilling consecutive three-pointers. The last one rolled in after a tantalizing dance on the rim, extending the advantage to 12 points.
Harden accomplished the scoring flurry just 54 seconds.
Kuzma scored 24 points and handed out five assists to complement another strong performance from LeBron James, who tallied 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting. Lance Stephenson scored 17 points off the bench while Josh Hart chipped in 15 points for the Lakers, who were partially undone by their 15-of-27 effort from the free-throw line.
The Rockets got a double-double from Clint Capela (16 points, 14 rebounds) while Danuel House delivered 15 points in 29 minutes off the bench. Chris Paul added 14 points, nine assists and three steals.
Harden and James treated the raucous sellout crowd to the fireworks most everyone craved in the first quarter, initiating a riveting back-and-forth battle between the former league MVPs.
Harden posted 13 points in the opening frame, following a thunderous dunk over JaVale McGee with a four-point play after absorbing a foul from Hart while drilling a 30-footer at the 8:32 mark.
James countered with nine points on only five shot attempts, converting an alley-oop dunk and a three-pointer after the Rockets extended to an early six-point advantage.
What hurt the Rockets early against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, an inability to corral defensive rebounds, was not an issue in the first period against the Lakers, who failed to secure one offensive board while Houston built a 29-24 lead after the opening quarter.
Paul provided some assistance with a dozen points in the second quarter to continually stave off the Lakers, who finally provided James support in the form of Kuzma and McGee (11 points total).
When the Lakers closed within 54-53 with just under two minutes remaining in the half, Paul responded with a three-pointer and three free throws, and Houston carried a 62-56 lead into the intermission.
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