LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – James Harden scored 42 points before fouling out and the Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to five games with a 115-104 victory over the host Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Before being whistled for his sixth foul with 1:44 left to play, Harden staved off a furious Boston rally with a driving layup and a 3-pointer over two defenders that extended the lead to 112-100. The Celtics, once down 71-43, scored the opening 10 points of the fourth quarter and had cut the margin to nine on a Marcus Smart (18 points) second-chance basket at the 4:40 mark.
The Celtics rallied behind their reserves, with Jaylen Brown posting 15 points and six rebounds off the bench to lead the charge. Boston recorded a 31-9 advantage in bench points.
Eric Gordon matched his career high with eight 3-pointers and scored 32 points to complement Harden, who was 6 of 18 on treys. Chris Paul added 15 points and 12 assists as Houston, which finished 21 of 51 on threes, improved to 12-0 this season when Paul records double-digit assists.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Al Horford added 19 points and six boards. Jayson Tatum chipped in 12 points for Boston on his 21st birthday.
Scoring bursts came with ease for the Rockets, starting with their 10-0 run to a 15-6 lead in the first quarter. Houston parlayed six Boston turnovers into 10 points and a 10-point lead entering the second, and in that period Harden and Gordon continued to fire away from beyond the arc.
Harden (23 points) and Gordon (20) matched the Celtics by combining for 43 first-half points, with Gordon sinking 5 of 6 threes.
The Rockets’ 3-point proficiency keyed their 65-43 halftime lead, as was their corralling of Irving, who scored 14 first-half points but attempted only five shots. The Rockets drained 10 of 24 treys while the Celtics finished 1 of 13 from deep by the intermission.