NBA playoffs: James Harden helps Rockets rout Thunder; Bucks oust Magic
James Harden scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook returned to face his former team in the playoffs for the first time, helping the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-80 on Saturday night for a 3-2 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Robert Covington added 22 points and Eric Gordon had 20. The Rockets can advance to the conference semifinals with a victory Monday.
Westbrook, who had played played just one game since Aug. 4 because of a quadriceps injury — missing the Rockets’ first four playoff games — had seven points, six rebounds and seven assists in 23 minutes.
“We’ve missed him the first four games. Now we’ve got him, and let’s see what we can do,” Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. “I knew he was going to be a little rusty, but he gave us a nice little spark.”
With the Clippers looking to eliminate Dallas in Game 6 on Sunday, Paul George’s peers could relate to his slump and mental stress that brought it on.
Dennis Schroder led the Thunder with 19 points despite being ejected midway through the third quarter for hitting P.J. Tucker in the groin; Tucker also was ejected after retaliating with a head-butt.
Steven Adams had 12 points and 14 rebounds and Darius Bazley had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder. They trailed by three at halftime before giving up 19 of the first 21 points of the third.
The Bucks will play the Miami Heat in the second round, beginning Monday.
Khris Middleton contributed 21 points and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee. The Bucks saw a 21-point lead shrink to three in the fourth quarter before regaining control with the help of timely outside shooting by Marvin Williams.
Williams scored all 12 of his points on three-pointers and Brook Lopez added 16 points for top-seeded Milwaukee, which won four straight after dropping the opener.
While the Milwaukee Bucks’ off-court social justice work is far from done, they showed how quickly their power could be brought together for change.
Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 15 rebounds for Orlando, while Evan Fournier added 18 points.
The game marked the first NBA action since the Bucks refused to take the court for a playoff game Wednesday night in protest of the recent police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin.
Milwaukee’s walkout led to a pause in all NBA play for two days while players convened to consider abandoning the remainder of the season before ultimately deciding to resume the postseason.
Before tipoff, a moment of silence was held to honor former NBA player Clifford Robinson, long-time college basketball coach Lute Olson and Black actor Chadwick Boseman, who all passed away in the past few days.
Players and staff knelt, many with arms locked, as the national anthem played.
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