x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

NBA: Rockets grounded on Harden return to Oklahoma City

James Harden's first encounter with his former teammates ended in a 120-98 defeat at the end of an emotional day for Houston.

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant drives round Houston's James Harden.
Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant drives round Houston's James Harden.

A tough day for the Houston Rockets ended with a tough NBA loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In a show of support for coach Kevin McHale, Rockets team members had flown to Minnesota for the funeral of his daughter, Alexandra "Sasha" McHale, who died on Saturday after a lengthy battle with the autoimmune disease lupus.

From there they went to Oklahoma City, where the Thunder's Kevin Durant scored 37 points in a 120-98 triumph over emotionally depleted Houston.

It was a particularly rough night for James Harden, who scored 17 points on just 3-of-16 shooting in his first return to Oklahoma City since he was traded to Houston in October.

Serge Ibaka added 23 points for the Thunder, who have won six of their last seven games.

Harden said it was the first time he had seen his former coaches and teammates since the trade.

"It was just good to see them, kind of laugh and joke around," he said. "You don't really realise it until you're actually in the position. Just to be warming up on the other side felt kind of weird."

Those feelings didn't improve much as the game went on, but Harden noted before the contest that in terms of the Rockets' season, the contest was no more important than any other.

"This game doesn't count for any more wins or losses," Harden said. "It's the business. You have to move on."

The Brooklyn Nets remain top of the NBA's Atlantic Division after winning a stormy encounter with the Boston Celtics.

The Nets moved to 10-4 for the season with a 95-83 success, built around 18 points from Joe Johnson and 17 from Andray Blatche, who also claimed 13 rebounds.

But the Nets also had Rajon Rondo ejected for a shove on Kris Humphries, while both Humphries and Gerrard Wallace were ejected for a second-quarter fight.

The Washington Wizards finally claimed their first victory of the season to end a run of 12 straight defeats.

The Portland Trail Blazers were their victims, going down 84-82 as Jordan Crawford top-scored with 19 points.

Luol Deng's 22 points inspired the Chicago Bulls to a 101-78 success against the Dallas Mavericks.

The NBA's form side, the Memphis Grizzlies, claimed a third successive victory after seeing off the Toronto Raptors 103-82.

Marreese Speights chipped in with 18 points and 12 rebounds, with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph both adding 17 points as the Grizzlies extended their record to 11 wins from 13 games.

The New York Knicks claimed a convincing 102-88 win over the Milwaukee Bucks as Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points in three quarters before sitting out the last.

There was a sixth successive win for the Atlanta Hawks, 94-91 over the Charlotte Bobcats, while Manu Ginobili's 20 points earned a 110-89 win for the San Antonio Spurs over the Orlando Magic.

The Phoenix Suns were well beaten 117-77 by the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 101-95 and the Utah Jazz bested the New Orleans Hornets 96-84.

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