LOS ANGELES: Chris Paul finished with 22 points and 11 assists as the Houston Rockets became the latest team to pummel LeBron James’ struggling Cleveland Cavaliers with a 120-88 win on Saturday. The Rockets did it without a big night from James Harden who finished with 16 points, while on the other side James had just 11 points and didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. Harden has been averaging 31 points a game this season for the Rockets, who won their fourth consecutive game and their 11th in their last 13. Ryan Anderson stepped in with 21 points.
Since losing at Golden State on Christmas Day, Cleveland have been humiliated in several matchups against top level NBA clubs. They lost by 28 at Minnesota, 34 in Toronto, 24 at home to Oklahoma City and now by 32 to the Rockets.
The Cavaliers looked nothing like the team that has made it to the last three NBA finals. “I’m lost for words,” James said.
The defending Eastern Conference champs played their second game without injured all-star forward Kevin Love, who suffered a broken left hand earlier this week and could be out for two months.
Isaiah Thomas scored 12 for Cleveland, who have lost 12 of 18 and don’t seem to have any answers on the floor for what ails them.
“They should take us off every nationally televised game for the rest of the season,” said James. “We haven’t played good at all and we get our butts kicked every time we play on national television, so I’m at a loss for words.”
In Denver, Nikola Jokic scored 19 points and added nine rebounds as the Nuggets came from behind to beat the Golden State Warriors 115-108. Denver rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to hand the Warriors their second loss in three games.
“For us to come and get the defending world champs was huge,” said Denver’s Gary Harris, who tallied 16 points.
Will Barton had 25 points and Harris 16 for the Nuggets, who split the four games with Golden State this season.
Kevin Durant scored 31 points and Stephen Curry had 24 for Golden State. “They hit some shots tonight,” Durant said. “We made plays but down the stretch we couldn’t get it done.”
Pistons come up clutch
In Detroit, Andre Drummond had 23 points and 20 rebounds and Ish Smith tallied a season-high 25, including a clutch triple in the final minute, as the Detroit Pistons beat the Miami Heat 111-107.
Blake Griffin helped offset a poor shooting night by making a key three pointer with 44 seconds remaining in the fourth.
The 28-year-old Griffin, who spent all eight NBA seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers before being traded to the Pistons on Monday, missed his first five shots from beyond the arc before making one in the final minute. He finished six-of-19 from the field with 16 total points.
The Pistons won their third straight game since the trade and are 2-0 with Griffin in uniform as they pulled within a game of .500 with a 25-26 record on the season.
Goran Dragic scored 33 points for the Heat, who have lost three in a row. Miami was missing centre Hassan Whiteside, who was sidelined with an illness.
With the Pistons ahead by four and 44 seconds to play, Griffin hit a triple to give Detroit a 108-101 lead.
Dragic responded with a four-point play, making a three-pointer while being fouled with 32 seconds left.
Detroit ran the clock down and on the next possession Griffin found a wide-open Smith who sank his only three-point attempt of the game with 14 seconds left to restore the lead to six points.
Elsewhere, Tobias Harris scored 24 points in his Clippers’ debut, leading Los Angeles to a 113-103 victory over the Chicago Bulls. — AFP