Harden nets 44 in triple-double, Rockets beat 76ers

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is convinced James Harden operates on a different level than most players, especially after his latest dazzling performance.

Harden had 44 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Rockets to a 118-108 win over the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday.

“He just understands the game, sees it and knows where he wants them,” D’Antoni said. “They stay out, he throws a lob. They come in, he throws that. He’s got that little runner, his 3s are all over the place. I mean, he’s really good. He’s one of the best ever.”

On a ‘Flashback Friday’ night in which the Rockets wore their retro ketchup-and-mustard uniforms from their back-to-back NBA title days in the mid-90s, Harden sported a retro look of his own, with a white headband and cornrows.

With Philadelphia threatening late, Harden knocked down a deep step-back three-pointer over Josh Richardson with 1:17 left in the game that put Houston up 10. On the next possession, he found Clint Capela with an alley-oop for a thunderous dunk.

Harden’s triple-double was his first of the season and 43rd of his career, tying Fat Level for eighth-most in NBA history.

Capela was a point shy of his career high in scoring, finishing with a season-best 30 points and 14 rebounds.

“You never feel comfortable,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “He dribbles two feet over half-court and you still don’t feel like you’re close enough. Then, you try to get close and he’s strong enough and good enough to go by you, and then, Capela gets behind your head for the lobs. The package is lethal. They’re hard to beat.”

The 76ers have lost four straight, their longest skid since dropping five in a row in December 2017.

Ben Simmons led Philadelphia with 29 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks, which matched a career-high. It was his 25th career triple-double and third this season. Tobias Harris scored 24 points.

“We can never let the highs get too high or the lows get too low,” Simmons said. “We’ve got to get better.”

After missing Philadelphia’s 115-97 loss with a sore left knee last Tuesday, Joel Embiid added 20 points and 12 rebounds.

“If it’s not taking a toll on anybody, I care about winning, and it’s taking a toll on me,” Embiid said. “All I care about is winning. … We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got to keep fighting.”

Houston Rockets centre Isaiah Hartenstein and guard James Harden vie for a rebound against Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons. PHOTO: AP