Rockets lean on Wall in victory over Kings

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – John Wall delivered a game-high 28 points as the Houston Rockets won their second straight game over the Sacramento Kings 102-94, despite playing without NBA all-star James Harden.

Eric Gordon replaced Harden and scored 21 points, while Christian Wood finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who also beat the Kings 122-119 on New Year’s Eve.

‘’I just put in a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point,’’ Wall said. ‘’I couldn’t ask for a better start to be 2-0 in my first two games.’’

Harden had 33 points in the New Year’s Eve game but was a late scratch on Saturday. The disgruntled American, who has asked for a trade, sat out with a sore ankle, although he has not been placed on the injury list.

Without Harden, Wall carried the offensive load for the Rockets. He had missed their first two games of the new season because of Covid-19 restrictions and was out all of last season because of injuries.

Houston Rockets’ John Wall controls the ball against Sacramento Kings’ Buddy Hield. PHOTO: AP

Sterling Brown came off the bench to score 11 points in the win.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas said he is pleasantly surprised with the immediate impact from Wall.

‘’Whatever expectations I had, he’s obviously exceeded them,’’ he said.

The Rockets seized their first double-digit lead of the game, 92-81, early in the fourth quarter when David Nwaba and Gordon drained back to back threes.

The Kings got to 92-83 with just over eight minutes left, but then cold shooting and turnovers resulted in them going scoreless for five minutes.

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 points, while Buddy Hield chipped in 17 points in the loss.

Elsewhere, Darius Bazley had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 108-99 road win over the Orlando Magic.

Bazley posted his second double-double of the season after making just one last season for the Thunder, who had six players in double-figure scoring.

George Hill finished with 18 points, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 16 for the Thunder, who snapped a three-game losing skid.

Nikola Vucevic scored a team-high 30 points, while Terrence Ross added 26 for Orlando, who have lost two straight after starting the season 4-0.

Orlando was just eight of 28 from the floor in the fourth, missing all 10 of its three-point attempts.

In Philadelphia, Ben Simmons had a triple-double, and Joel Embiid tallied 19 points and 14 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers dominated the Charlotte Hornets 127-112.

Tobias Harris scored a team-high 24 points, and Simmons finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Sixers won their 12th consecutive game over the Hornets. Philadelphia has not lost to Charlotte since 2016.

Terry Rozier had 35 points for the Hornets in the loss.