x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

NBA: Harden outshines Lin on Rockets debut

New signing James Harden scored 37 points as Houston opened their season with a 105-96 victory over Detroit, while the LA Lakers slipped to their second defeat of the week.

Houston Rockets guard Carlos Delfino brings the ball forward against Detroit.
Houston Rockets guard Carlos Delfino brings the ball forward against Detroit.

Jeremy Lin was a winner in his NBA debut with the Houston Rockets, but it was fellow newcomer James Harden who lifted the squad in a 105-96 triumph on Wednesday at Detroit.

The Rockets obtained Harden Saturday in a deal with Oklahoma City and signed a five-year contract extension worth a reported $80 million (Dh293m) with Houston only hours before he took the court with his new teammates.

Joining Lin in the Rockets backcourt, Harden scored 37 points on 14-of-25 shooting from the field and passed out 12 assists while grabbing six rebounds.

Lin, who sparked "Linsanity" last season with the New York Knicks in a last-chance long-shot star turn off the bench, signed a free agent deal with the Rockets that New York failed to match to find his way to the former club of retired Chinese star centre Yao Ming.

In his regular-season debut with the Rockets, Lin scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting while passing out eight assists and pulling down four rebounds.

Carlos Delfino came off the bench to add 15 points for the Rockets, who trailed 58-55 at half-time and 81-72 entering the fourth quarter before Houston outscoring the Pistons 33-15.

Brandon Knight led Detroit with 15 points while Greg Monroe added 14.

With ice hockey on hold due to the NHL's ongoing labour dispute, sports fans in Toronto turned to basketball, but despite giving Indiana a scare the Raptors lost 90-88 in their NBA season opener.

George Hill's layup with two seconds left clinched the win for the visiting Pacers, but the rebuilding Raptors delivered enough tricks and treats to give encouragement to Dwane Casey, Toronto's head coach, for the rest of the regular season.

"There are so many positives I am looking at against one of the top teams in the NBA," Casey said afterwadss. "I like what I see. We've got a lot of good stuff going. A lot of positives."

With the NHL players who Canadians traditionally idolise scattered across the globe amid the labour dispute, Toronto hopes to build their fan base in ice hockey's absence and may have found a new favourite in Lithuanian.

Seven-foot Lithuanian rookie Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in his debut and showed plenty of grit going head-to-head against the Pacers' towering Roy Hibbert.

"Didn't win but it was a good game, a hard game, we showed that we can compete against them," said Valanciunas, who was taken with fifth overall by the Raptors in the 2011 draft.

"We fight well. I try to learn from my mistakes, the coach gave me advice on how to defend Hibbert. I don't like to comment on my game, I will let the coach decide what I did good."

Trailing by 10 points with six minutes to play, the Pacers showed why they are expected to be a force in the Eastern Conference this season, coming back to get the win without Danny Granger, who is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.

David West had a game high 25 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, while Paul George had 14 and 15 rebounds. Hibbert also chipped in with 14 points for the Pacers.

Newly acquired Kyle Lowry had 21 points and eight assists to lead the Raptors, while Andrea Bargnani had 16 points and Jose Calderon 15 coming off the bench.

DeMar DeRozan, who signed a four-year contract extension for a reported $38 million with the Raptors before the opening tip-off, had 10 points and five rebounds.

Stephen Curry's big day turned into a long night, and the Golden State Warriors turned to Carl Landry to escape with a season-opening victory over the rebuilt Phoenix Suns.

Landry scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and the Warriors beat the Suns 87-85 on Wednesday in Phoenix's first game of the post-Steve Nash era.

Curry, who earlier in the day agreed to a four-year, $44 million extension with the Warriors, missed his first 10 shots from the field and wound up 2 of 14 with five points.

"It was one of those games," Curry said, "but it was a crazy day."

He even missed two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to allow the Suns a chance at a game-winning shot.

"That was a sign on how my night went," Curry said. "Thankfully there was not enough time to get a shot off and we were able to walk off with a win.'

Sebastian Telfair's 3-point attempt for Phoenix came after the buzzer, and misfired anyway.

Goran Dragic had 17 points and Luis Scola added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix. Marcin Gortat had 10 points and nine rebounds and matched his career best with five blocked shots for the Suns, who have only five players back from last season's roster.

San Antonio's Tim Duncan scored 24 points and Tony Parker hit a huge 3-pointer as the Spurs opened the season with a 99-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in the debut for top draft pick Anthony Davis.

Davis scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

In other games, Joakim Noah scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Chicago Bulls' 93-87 win over Sacramento Kings. Richard Hamilton added 19 points, while Carlos Boozer chipped in with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Spencer Hawes had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to an 84-75 win over the Denver Nuggets, while Mo Williams and Marvin Williams each scored 21 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 113-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Jamal Crawford scored 29 points in 30 minutes in his first official game with his new team as the Los Angeles Clippers extended the Memphis Grizzlies' NBA-record streak of opening-night losses to 12.

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who had 12 assists, were among six Clippers to score in double figures. The Clippers are 20-23 in season openers, 12-17 since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984.

The Grizzlies got 25 points from Rudy Gay and 20 from Marc Gasol. Zach Randolph, who missed more than two 2 1-2 months last season after tearing the MCL in his right knee and undergoing surgery, had 15 points and 16 rebounds.

Dwight Howard's 33 points and 14 rebounds were not enough for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 116-106 loss to the inspired Portland Trail Blazers.

Nicolas Batum had 26 points and the Blazers led by as many as 19 in handing the Lakers their second straight loss to open the season. Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the June draft, had 22 points and 11 assists in his NBA debut for Portland.

The Lakers' troubles were compounded by the loss of guard Steve Nash to what appeared to be a left knee injury late in the first half. Nash, acquired by the Lakers this summer, collided with Lillard and limped to the locker room.


Meanwhile Taj Gibson has agreed to a four-year, $38 million contract extension with the Bulls, ahead of the NBA deadline.

Gibson confirmed the deal, which kicks in after the current season, following the Sacramento match.

The player had previously said he did not expect to reach a deal on a new contract with Chicago