Rockets extend streak over Warriors while LeBron James questions Lakers

  1. Houston beat Golden State for third time in row, without Harden
  2. LA Lakers out of playoff places in Western Conference

Eric Gordon scored 25 points with four three-pointers, Chris Paul converted two free throws with 68 seconds left on the way to 23, and the Houston Rockets outplayed the Golden State Warriors without the league’s scoring leader James Harden for a 118-112 victory on Saturday night.

The result means the Rockets have now won all three games against the NBA champions this season. The teams met in the Western Conference last season, where the Warriors won in seven games. “You can come in here and win on a Monday night in February or a Tuesday night in November or December,” Paul, who had 17 assists on the night, said. “But in the playoffs is when you have to beat a team four out of seven times. It’s great tonight that we won this but in two days y’all will forget this. We all will.”

Early in the fourth, Golden State’s Draymond Green exited the game with a sprained left ankle after grabbing at his foot in clear pain from stepping on teammate DeMarcus Cousins’ foot. Harden was missing due to flu-like symptoms and a neck strain.

Elsewhere, Jrue Holiday hit five three-pointers and scored 27 points while Anthony Davis watched from the bench, and New Orleans beat Los Angeles.

Former Laker Julius Randle had 24 points for the Pelicans, who looked in sync and motivated as they slowed LeBron James and the Lakers’ push to qualify for the playoffs. James had 27 points and 12 assists, and Brandon Ingram scored 29 points for Los Angeles.

After the game, James appeared to question whether his new teammates had the experience to handle a playoff run. “How many know what’s at stake if you’ve never been there?” James said. “I’m playing devil’s advocate, you know? It’s kind of a fine line when you talk about that, because when you’ve never been there or know what it takes to actually shoot for something like that, sometimes you’re afraid to get uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers struggled in their second game without All-Star center Joel Embiid, who is expected to miss at least a week with a sore left knee. Ben Simmons had 29 points and 10 assists and Tobias Harris scored 20 as the Sixers lost 130-115 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Without Embiid, the Sixers couldn’t keep up in a matchup between the fourth-place teams in each conference. The Blazers have won three in a row, including a 22-point victory over Golden State before the All-Star break. Philadelphia are 4-4 this month.

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